“Russia has Lost the War”

So says Western media… And if all we do is listen to what is published in the West and listen to what the various “strategists” say on all the talk-shows, we would come to the following conclusions:

  • Russia has lost the war, with the capture of Kherson by the Ukrainian army and its offensives in the north of the Donbass.
  • The casualties among the ranks of the Russian army are very considerable and it is demoralized, its generals are incompetent and are dying at the front, if they are not dismissed and arrested.
  • The Russian army has practically no more ammunition left to continue the war and its missiles are unable to reach their targets, thanks to the excellent Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense that intercepts them. And Russia is also running out of missiles.
  • The Ukrainian army has reconquered territory in the Kherson region and its offensives in the north of Donbass, as well as its resistance on the Donetsk front, augur a clear victory of its army which will lead them to reconquer all the territory annexed by Russia, including, of course, Crimea, forcing Russia to sign a peace which will lead its current president, Vladimir Putin, to be tried and sentenced and make recompense for all the expenses undertaken because of the conflict.
  • As for the Russian people, they do not want this war and hope for a quick replacement of their president by one of the opposition leaders, who will be much more liberal and supported by the United States and Europe.
  • Faced with this disaster, Putin and his generals have resorted to wild, indiscriminate shelling of the Ukrainian population, leaving these people without electricity, water and supplies. The Russians do not rule out the use of nuclear weapons, if things get even worse.

Such is the picture painted by the European and Anglo-American mass media, although it must be acknowledged that the latter are making an effort to provide other, more objective analyses in view of the latest developments in the conflict. The intellectual laziness of many information professionals, who limit themselves to reproducing the propaganda reports of Zelensky’s government, if not submitting to the doxa dictated by the media management bodies, as well as the censorship imposed by the authorities and pressure groups, prevent a more impartial knowledge of the real situation of the conflict.

To begin with, Russia cannot lose this war, nor can it give up the territories that since the referendums have been incorporated into the Russian Federation. First of all, it is a question of survival in the face of the Anglo-American world’s determination to put an end to the existence of a Russia that opposes its hegemonic domination and that, on the contrary, is committed to a multipolar world where a balance of forces coexists. Secondly, the Russian society, and even more so the recently annexed populations, and in particular the Donbass regions which have suffered a war for eight years, would never accept to stop being part of Russia.

As for the situation on the ground, if we look at the development of events from the information provided by objective military specialists and analysts, some even coming from armies committed to Ukrainian interests, since the appointment of General Surovikin as Commander-in-Chief of the Armies in the Ukrainian campaign, things have changed quite a lot. His appointment has meant a single command, subordinating the rest of the generals who earlier directed the operations in each of the territories where they acted independently and without coordination with the rest. Since his appointment, a reorganization of the troops assigned to the operation has been carried out, rotating them after the attrition suffered during these nine months of war and reinforcing their material, in particular with artillery pieces and armored vehicles, and massively incorporating observation and destruction drones.

From the tactical point of view, Russia has no need, as Surovikin himself stated, to expose its soldiers uselessly, when it has other means at its disposal to win this war. Russia, because of its demographic situation, cannot afford to send hundreds of thousands of young men to the front, as the Soviets did in World War II, with the result that that entailed. The use of tactical missiles directed against military installations and recently against strategic infrastructures, whose effectiveness is difficult to refute in view of the express acknowledgement by the Ukrainian authorities themselves, is bringing about a substantial change in the course of this conflict.

What some media have considered as a defeat and a withdrawal of the Russian army in Kherson, has been in reality a tactical withdrawal to avoid exposing a significant part of its troops who could have been surrounded in a compromising situation, and thus to better defend themselves. It has been sold that the Ukrainians had defeated the Russians and that this meant that they had practically won the war. The reality is that the Russians have temporarily ceded ground to regroup and organize themselves. They have abandoned the city, transforming it into a ghost town without electricity or water and with a population, albeit a very small one, which the Ukrainian troops will have to feed. At the same time, they have moved, in a successful operation, to the other bank of the Dnieper, turning the river into a natural line of defense very difficult to cross, since at this time, its width is about two kilometers.

So much so that in spite of the fact that the operation had been announced in advance by Surovikin himself, something surprising for a military commander, the Ukrainian forces did not give him credit and delayed their entry into the city until they were certain that it had been abandoned by the Russians, as they believed that it was all a trap. The withdrawal was made without loss of material or men and in an orderly manner, despite the fact that more than 20,000 men were mobilized. Previously, more than 150,000 civilians had been evacuated from the city to the other side, under Ukrainian artillery shelling. They even moved the remains of the founder of the city and mythical person in the history of Russia, Marshal Potemkin, so that his remains would not be desecrated by the Ukrainian troops. Clear proof of this is that we have not seen those images of casualties or destroyed materials that the Ukrainian propaganda media lavished so much on when, at the beginning, they confronted the Russian forces. What has been seen, on the contrary, is a deserted city whose population is trying to survive in hardship and which has been announced that it will be evacuated because of the impossibility of supplying it, while the repressive rearguard forces are engaged in arresting the Russians’ collaborators. In their military history, the Russians have a long experience of strategic retreats that have been successful.

Located on the other bank of the river, with the natural barrier of its width and the difficulty of crossing it under artillery fire, the Russian troops have a considerable advantage. So much so that part of the troops assigned at the time to this front have been transferred to the Donbass front to reinforce the offensive which is being carried out there and which, little by little, is gaining ground despite the difficulty of overcoming the lines of fortifications built by the Ukrainians more than eight years ago and which they have been defending with extraordinary courage and tenacity.

The mobilization of reservists decreed last September and the enlistment of volunteers means the incorporation of 318,000 soldiers and commanders directly on the front line. Unlike the mobilized Ukrainians, who are already in their seventh or eighth mobilization with hardly any training, these troops are undergoing intense military training by veterans of the operation, so that their incorporation will be carried out when they have completed their training and proven their operational capacity. As of today, about 80,000 of them have already joined the front lines, integrating into already hardened units. The rest will do so by mid-December. There has been no haste, and their training is being prioritized to avoid casualties and strengthen their effectiveness.

Meanwhile, on other fronts, Donetsk and Lugansk, Russian troops are advancing slowly, favoring artillery fire both when advancing and retreating, avoiding unnecessary exposure of men and material. The use of observation drones for the localization of enemy forces is being abundantly employed, with excellent results, as this allows for accurate and effective artillery fire. There is abundant filming that proves their use and effectiveness. The practical non-existence of Ukrainian aviation, because it was cancelled at the beginning, and the little effectiveness of its anti-aircraft defenses, in spite of receiving new Western materials, makes Russian aviation have control of the skies and intervene more and more in support of the troops on the ground. Although the equipment provided is not always of the latest generation, the technological complexity also requires trained servants when it comes to more modern systems, which is why the Russians are suspicious of the involvement of NATO troops who covertly handle such equipment.

The Russians are expected to carry out a major offensive when weather conditions permit, i.e., when the ground freezes, because now, with the heavy rains, it is impracticable. The Ukrainians are suffering to a greater extent, because much of the material sent by the Ottoman allies, replacing the Soviet material they had and have been losing, is wheeled, unlike the Russian material, in which tracks predominate. The priority will undoubtedly be focused on recovering the territories of the Donbass up to its territorial limits and, perhaps, on descending from above along the right bank of the Dnieper to recover the territories of Zaporiyia and Kherson. Who knows if they will not go on to Odessa. Nor can the Russians afford to delay their offensive too long, because the longer they delay, the more time the Ukrainian army will have to mobilize and train its levies.

On the other hand, the destruction, by means of tactical missiles, of energy infrastructures, especially power plants and sub-power plants, by the Russian forces, is having considerable effects on the deterioration of the supply on the material fronts, since it prevents their transfer from the borders, slowing down their offensives and weakening their defenses. Although its effects are being felt to a greater extent on the living conditions of civilians, depriving them of electricity and water, the destruction of these infrastructures was something that Russian military officials had been demanding for some time in view of the increase in military aid received by the Ukrainian army from its NATO allies.

Finally, as far as casualties are concerned, the number of deaths in the ranks of the Ukrainian army is staggering. According to American officials, there are about 100,000 dead, to which must be added the wounded in the proportion of three for every one dead. This means that, between the dead and the wounded, they are losing between 300 and 400 men a day on the various fronts. Russian losses are around 48,000 wounded and 16,000 dead, 8,000 of which belong to the Russian army and the rest to the territorial units, Chechen forces and the Wagner group. It should be borne in mind that the brunt of the war has so far been carried out by the territorial units of the Donbass and the special forces on their respective fronts. Initially, the Russian army have started the conflict with between 125,000 and 150,000 troops, to which were added about 60,000 mobilized between the territorial troops of the Donbass and the Chechen special forces and the Wagner Group, with 10,000 troops each. For its part, the Ukrainian army numbered about 600,000 men at the beginning of the conflict. According to UN data, more than 10,000 civilians were killed between the two sides during the eight months of the conflict.

We will probably soon witness a change in the situation, both on the ground and politically, although the media and talk show hosts with careers in the offices of Brussels or NATO headquarters tell us that the Ukrainian army is going to win this war and that they will force Russia to return the annexed territories. American officials have already suggested to Zelensky that he should reconsider negotiating with Russia, and we know that he who pays the piper calls the tune, and American governments have never been known for their unswerving loyalty to the leader of the day. Rather, they have been dedicated to defending their own interests.

Eugenio de Dobrynne writes for El Manifesto, through whose courtesy this article appears.

The Ukrainian Army Promotes War Crimes

The crimes of the Ukrainian army, which we can often see on social networks, horrify the entire civilized world. And if the West is the main financier and logistics-provider for the Ukrainian army, the crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers appalled even them. After the recent Ukrainian war crime in Makiivka, it was the Western media that put pressure to launch an investigation. Unfortunately, despite the pressure from the West, it is difficult to expect that the Ukrainian army will respect the Geneva Convention in the future. It is more realistic to expect that they will continue to behave like a wild horde.

Therefore, the video of the execution of Russian prisoners of war by Ukrainian troops, which circulated in the media and social networks, is far from the only video recording of war crimes by Ukrainian army.

Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, videos of beaten and stripped prisoners of war and civilians suspected of collaborating with the Russians have appeared on social media. Records of torture also circulated widely.

However, what shocks the public is that official Kyiv promotes the violation of the Geneva Convention and does not care about the promotion of war crimes. What are the reasons for such “public violence,” which greatly compromise both the Ukrainian military and President Zelensky himself?

It is certain that the Russian army in Ukraine also committed some crimes, bearing in mind that it is an armed formation of over 200,000 people. However, the Russian military police has an iron discipline in this matter, and such things are severely punished. And such an order comes from the Kremlin, because President Putin has repeatedly emphasized publicly that Russians and Ukrainians are one nation. And that the Russian army must take into account not only Ukrainian civilians but also captured soldiers.

The above can be confirmed by the fact that since the beginning of the conflict, a large number of independent journalists have been accompanying the Russian army and reporting from the front. It must be emphasized here that the majority of journalists are not from Russia but from the West. This is evidenced by the fact that more than once, due to journalists filming and revealing the positions of the Russian army, there have been losses of equipment in the Russian army.

But Russians are not characterized by cruelty. The main difference between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian fighters is different cultural traditions. In the 80th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, formed in Lviv from the natives of Western Ukraine, the personnel were brought up in the spirit of the traditions of the Ukrainian underground during the Second World War. Recall that back then the supporters of Stepan Bandera shot pro-Soviet and pro-Polish activists, including doctors and teachers sent to western Ukraine, and also massacred entire Jewish and Polish villages.

In the Russian mentality, mockery and mistreatment of prisoners is unacceptable. You can kill the enemy, but not torture. Russians in their ideology have always opposed themselves to the German Nazis with their concentration camps and gas chambers. So, if someone posted a video of the torture and murder of captured soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Russian audience would explode with indignation, recognizing the perpetrators of such acts as war criminals.

However, the true reason for the appearance of Ukrainian torture videos lies not even in the different mentality of Ukrainian nationalists and Russians. In fact, Kiev propagandists deliberately give the green light to such videos. This is primarily done to scare Russian soldiers and reservists. And official Kiev does not pay much attention to these crimes.

Take for example the recent Ukrainian war crime in Makiivka. The Ukrainian army immediately began to claim that the video was staged and fake. However, it was the Western experts who confirmed the authenticity of the video and the Western media exerted pressure to launch an investigation.

However, such video-propaganda of cruelty actually has a much more serious purpose. Its main task is to form a stable feeling of hatred between Russians and residents of Ukraine. EU residents have little idea of the mentality of the average Russian. The fact is that many in Russia sincerely consider the current war to be a civil one. Almost all Russians treat Ukrainians either as a very close people or as southwestern Russians. Half of the inhabitants of Ukraine have Russian surnames, relatives in Russia and use Russian as their main language. However, each such video, according to the plan of Kiev radical propagandists, is meant to change the mentality of Russians more and more. They must hate all the inhabitants of Ukraine; stop treating them as “their own” and recognize that reconciliation with Ukraine and a new reunification with it is impossible. Peace will come sooner or later, but a steel wave of hatred will fall between the future Ukraine and Russia. At the same time, Russia’s desire to punish the killers of defenseless prisoners of war and civilians will also prevent the settlement of relations between Moscow and Kyiv for many decades.

The line of military contact between Russia and Ukraine is lengthening; fresh troops and new weapons are coming to the front from both sides. Obviously, the execution in Makiivka will not be the last video demonstrating the complete disregard of Kyiv, for “democratic values,” the Geneva Convention and human rights.

[Warning—this link contains videos and images of extreme cruelty].

However, what appalls observers of the conflict in Ukraine even more is the fact that the Ukrainian army tortures and kills its own citizens. We saw this during the Ukrainian seizure of Izyum and Kherson. After which hundreds of Ukrainian citizens simply disappeared; that is, they were liquidated by the SBU and the Ukrainian army.

The question involuntarily begs itself, does a united Europe need such a Ukraine, proud of the massacres?

Slavisha Batko Milacic is a historian and independent analyst, and writes about the situation in the Balkans and Europe.

How the West Brought War to Ukraine

We are so very pleased to bring you an excerpt from a very crucial book, How the West Brought War to Ukraine, by Benjamin Abelow. To orient readers, we begin by quoting the one-paragraph blurb from the back cover:

According to the Western narrative, Vladimir Putin is an insatiable, Hitler-like expansionist who invaded Ukraine as an unprovoked land grab. That story is incorrect. In reality, the United States and NATO bear significant responsibility for the Ukraine crisis. Through a series of misguided policies, Washington and its European allies placed Russia in an untenable situation for which war seemed, to Mr. Putin and his military staff, the only workable solution. This book lays out the relevant history and explains how the West needlessly created conflict and now labors under an existential threat of its own making.

The book is endorsed by many experts. For example, in the words John J. Mearsheimer: “For anyone interested in understanding the true causes of the disaster in Ukraine, How the West Brought War to Ukraine is required reading.”

Please support the valuable work of Benjamin Abelow and purchase a copy of this book, and spread the word. What follows, copied by permission, is the entire Chapter Seven from this short and readable eight-chapter book.

[Read our review]

How Overly Pessimistic Narratives Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

The story of an evil, irrational, intrinsically expansionist Russia with a paranoid leader at its helm, opposed by a virtuous United States and Europe, is a confused and strange confabulation, inconsistent with a whole series of directionally aligned events during the past 30 years—events whose significance and meaning should have been readily apparent. In fact, the predominant Western narrative might itself be viewed as a kind of paranoia.

The provocations that the United State and its allies have directed at Russia are policy blunders so serious that, had the situation been reversed, U.S. leaders would long ago have risked nuclear war with Russia. For U.S. leaders to assert otherwise, as they now are doing, represents a dangerous disregard of reality. In some cases, this disregard surely represents willful demagoguery. But for some policy makers it must be well intentioned, occurring for the simple reason that they continue to interpret new facts in light of the same spent narrative.

Major press outlets also bear responsibility. Rather than seeking to contextualize events properly for their readers, the media have trumpeted the government’s preferred narrative. Whatever its motivations, the mainstream media have implemented, and continue to implement, a regime of propaganda that misinforms the public and can only be perceived by Russia as an affront to the national character of its people. Online providers of information are doing much the same. In fact, as the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and First Amendment lawyer Glenn Greenwald has shown, massive censorship of dissenting views is now occurring at many levels of society in both the United States and Europe.

Although it is difficult to look at the horrific images coming out of Ukraine without revulsion and anger, succumbing to blind emotion and embracing the dominant Western narrative is a dangerous error. It empowers the worst forces in Washington, including the nexus of bureaucratic power and commercial interest that President Eisenhower, a fivestar Army general, termed the military-industrial complex, about which he warned the American public in his final televised address as U.S. president. This narrative also enables the most Russophobic and militaristic of European leaders, as well as those with the least guts to stand up to misguided American policies. The narrative clouds the minds of American and European citizens, leading to jingoism and war-mongering.

My primary goal in this book is to correct a false narrative, and for a very practical reason: because false narratives lead to bad outcomes. Narratives are inevitably reflected in behaviors; they are both descriptive and generative. By functioning as models of reality, narratives serve as guides for action. Then, through the dynamic of action and reaction, push and pushback, they can produce the results they allege are already present. In this way, a narrative that is overly pessimistic about the intentions of a potential opponent—what I term a “narrative of suspicion”—can potentiate the very threats it purports to mitigate.

This description underlies the classic dynamic of an arms race that culminates in escalation and war. It instantiates not the paradigm of World War II, with its associated images of implacable expansionism and Western appeasement, but of World War I, in which Germany, Britain, Western Europe, and ultimately America sleep-walked into catastrophe. Yet now, because of the nature of nuclear weaponry, catastrophe can happen more easily, and with more devastating effect.

As with World War I, each side, fearing the worst from the other, seeks to make itself invulnerable through a military strategy that necessarily also has offensive potential—a double-edged strategic sword that policy analysts term a “security dilemma.” This is precisely what George Kennan predicted with respect to NATO expansion, and in respect to which he has proven correct. That expansion, which was justified in the name of defense, has been perceived by Russia as an offensive threat and led to actions that are, in turn, perceived by the West as expansionist. In 2014, Richard Sakwa offered a pithy retrospect on the situation that Kennan had anticipated:

In the end, NATO’s existence became justified by the need to manage the security threats provoked by its enlargement. The former Warsaw Pact and Baltic states joined NATO to enhance their security, but the very act of doing so created a security dilemma for Russia that undermined the security of all.

And since Sakwa wrote, the situation has only gotten worse, in good measure because the United States and its allies have carried out a parallel set of military expansions outside of NATO.

Mr. Putin, whatever authoritarian tendencies he might possess, was not born on a set path. In the current zeitgeist, it may be considered heretical to state the obvious: that Mr. Putin, like all human beings, is influenced by a combination of what is within—his psychology, beliefs, and values—and what is without, the dynamic external circumstances that confront him. This is simply a truism. It is likewise a truism that chronic exposure to certain patterns of external events can change a person’s inner tendencies, or, at least, selectively magnify some tendencies at the expense of other,
sometimes opposite tendencies.

Incrementally, in steps small and large, the West has disregarded Russia’s reasonable security concerns, considering them irrelevant, stoking Russian concerns about encirclement and invasion. At the same time, the United States and its European allies have implied that a rational actor would be assuaged by the West’s statements of benign intention: that the weapons, training, and interoperability exercises, no matter how provocative, powerful, or close to Russia’s borders, are purely defensive and not to be feared. In many instances, Western leaders, especially from the United States, have actively disrespected Mr. Putin, sometimes insulting him to his face.

In doing all this, the West has suggested that Mr. Putin is imagining strategic threats where none in fact exist. This Western framing—which posits a lack of legitimate Russian security concerns coupled with implied and explicit accusations of irrationality—underlies much of the currently dominant narrative. It also underlies the ideological position of the Russia hawks who play such a prominent role in Washington. In personal relationships, the combination of threatening actions and accusations of paranoia would be considered gaslighting. Is the situation really so different in the realm of international politics?

During times of war and military threat, even the leaders of free countries lean toward authoritarianism. Sensing great danger, they may tighten the reins of power, imposing top-down control and expanding the categories of domestic action and speech that are considered treasonous. It is not extreme to suggest that the provocations described in this book created in the mind of Mr. Putin and other members of the Russian political and military class an evolving sense of siege and emergency. My point is that one must contemplate the possibility that Western actions contributed not only to Russia’s foreign policies, but to untoward aspects of Russia’s domestic politics as well. In fact, George Kennan predicted this in 1998. NATO expansion, he said, would “have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy.”

Political actors, both individuals and corporate actors, such as bureaucracies and nations, are not static entities. Rather, the human decisions we call “policies” emerge from a concatenation of conscious intentions; unconscious motivations; accidents of history; and personal, human interactions, including blatantly threatening, humiliating, and disrespectful interactions and words, such as those that have emanated from the mouth of President Biden. And it is quite possible that the actions of the United States and its European allies exerted, and continue to exert, a more profound effect on the policies of Mr. Putin, including his domestic policies, than some are inclined to think.

The Reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with the Russian Federation

“The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood” (Otto Von Bismarck).


Part One of this article sets forth a chronology of events that took place in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and prior to Crimea’s reunification with the Russian Federation. This Part is divided into three sections: [1] the period between 1991 and 2000, [2] the period between 2013 and 2014, and [3] the period in Crimea in 2014. Two preceding events merit mention: Catherine the Great’s 1793 integration of Crimea within the Russian empire, and Khrushchev’s transfer of the peninsula to the Ukr. SSR in 1954. The chronology corrects misstatements of fact found in the scholarly literature and popular press, both of which portray an abbreviated version of facts, and a piecemeal application of public international law, to maintain that: [1] Crimea seceded from Ukraine, [2] the purported “secession” was illegal under extant principles of public international law and, [3] the Russian Federation illegally “annexed” Crimea in 2014.

Part Two of this article distils key conclusions drawn from the comprehensive factual chronology found in Part One. Conventional interpretations of the Crimean crisis repose upon faulty factual premises thereby undercutting their profoundly misguided conclusions. Without an accurate statement of facts, the precise legal question to be answered cannot be drawn. In the absence of fully developed facts, the media spreads an unsustainable mythology of Euromaidan shaping public opinion. Part Two also argues that public international law sanctions a monopoly of power by States and lacks rules to resolve matters such as the Crimean case.

Part Three of this article constructs the argument from pragmatism to support the reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation and to legitimate the redrawn borders of the Republic of Crimea. The pragmatist argument relies upon multiple disciplines: history, economic analysis, and political reasoning; posits that facts drive the application of “international law,” and, asserts that principles of “economic analysis,” exceptionally well-developed within municipal law, have the capacity to reshape public international law to improve an understanding of State behaviour. The redrawn border of the Crimean Peninsula is consistent with logic and what must constitute the ultimate objective of public international law: the end of human suffering.

Part One: History [1991-2000]

The story of Crimea’s separation from Ukraine and re-unification with the Russian Federation begins in 1991, when the Soviet Union was disintegrating, but prior to its formal dissolution. The declarations first of sovereignty and second of independence of the individual republics of the USSR, were acts of secession, as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, at that time, remained in existence and constituted the highest organ of power. These secessions have generated no legal analysis as to their validity under public international law, as the Great Powers of that epoch: The United States and Europe, did not object, as it was in their geo- political interest.

On 26 April 1990, the USSR enacted a law identifying competences of the USSR as a federation and competences held by the Republics. Under the law, autonomous republics had rights of full governance over their territory without direct control of the USSR. Earlier, on 10 April 1990, the law on economic relationships among the republics came into effect. On 3 November 1990, a special commission of the Crimean government announced a project to formulate a temporary decree concerning the procedure of how to conduct a referendum on the territory of the Crimean oblast to permit a vote on re-establishing Crimea as an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Subsequently, on 12 November 1990, the Crimean government held a special session, at which Kravchuk was present, and found that the USSR decree of 30 June 1945 and law of the RSSR of 25 June 1946, abolishing the Crimean ASSR was unlawful, and that the Crimean population has the right to re-establish the Crimean ASSR as a subject of the USSR, and participant of the Union Agreement. Simultaneously, the Crimean government decided to hold a referendum, scheduled for 20 January 1991, to decide the legal status of Crimea.

In response to Gorbachev’s planned reforms, on 5 January 1991, the Republic of Crimea prepared for a referendum and published the ballot setting forth the choices to be submitted to voters. On 22 January 1991, the results of the referendum were published: 93.26% of voters elected to become an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as a subject of the USSR. On 25 January 1991, the Crimean government reported the results of the referendum to Kiev, asked for freedom from Ukraine to enable integration within the USSR. The request also asked Kiev to modify its constitution and to approve the drafting of a new constitution for Crimea as an ASSR. On 12 February 1991, President Kravchuk issued a law composed of two articles. Article 1 re-established the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on the territory of the Crimean oblast within the Ukr. SSR. Article 2 appointed the interim government of Crimean ASSR. Consequently, Kravchuk ignored the results of the referendum and cemented Crimea to Ukraine contrary to the will of the population of Crimea.

On 17 March 1991, the USSR, acting in its federal capacity, held a union-wide referendum asking whether citizens wanted the USSR to continue to exist as a new federation comprised of equal sovereign republics. In Ukraine, 70.5% of those who voted expressed a preference to remain in the revised USSR; noteworthy is that western regions of Ukraine rejected the proposal. Despite this expressed preference, political officials opposed to reform programmes and opposed to the Gorbachev Presidency planned to disintegrate the USSR.

Ignoring legal niceties, on 8 December 1991, Boris Yeltsin [then President of Russia], Leonid Kravchuk [then President of Ukraine], and Stanislav Shushkevich [then President of Belarus], at a meeting in Viskuli, Belarus, close to the Belavezha forest, dissolved the Soviet Union when they signed “The Agreement on the Establishment of a Commonwealth of Independent States,” explicitly stating that “the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality ceases its existence.” The Agreement was signed despite the fact that Mikhail Gorbachev was still President of the Soviet Union, and the laws of the individual republics were subordinate to the Union’s laws. At Belavezha, the Head of the Belarusian KGB, Eduard Shirkovsky, in reply to a question posed by Prime Minister Kebich, said: “Of course! We are faced with high treason, betrayal, if we are to call things by their right names. Don’t misunderstand me: I could not help reacting. I swore an oath.” Shortly after signing the “Agreement,” and behind the back of President Gorbachev, Yeltsin called then President George H.W. Bush to inform of the fait accompli: the Soviet Union no longer exists. The coup de grace, then took place on 21 December 1991, in Almaty [then Alma-Ata], Kazakhstan, when representatives of eleven republics signed an Agreement dissolving the USSR and creating the Commonwealth of Independent States, even though Gorbachev still was President of the USSR.

In January 1991, prior to the Alma-Ata accords, Crimea held a referendum [the Crimean Sovereignty Referendum] where voters were asked whether they wanted to re-establish the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, that had been abolished in 1954. Specifically, the referendum asked whether Crimea wanted to become an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as a subject of the USSR, not a subject of Ukraine. Ninety-four percent [94%] of voters approved the referendum. However, Kravchuk, committed to prevent Crimea from seceding from Ukraine, visited Crimea “on the day when its parliament was scheduled to vote on the law regulating the local referendum that was to put the question of the Crimea’s secession to a popular vote.” He “convinced” the “former communist elite, who had worked with Kyiv since 1954, to postpone the vote on the law.” “Their opponents in parliament, represented by the Republican Movement of the Crimea, were outvoted.”

Subsequently, on 24 August 1991, the Supreme Court of Ukr. SSR declared the independence of Ukraine, arbitrarily identifying the Crimean ASSR as a territory of a newly established State, a de facto illegal annexation of Crimea. By doing so, the founders of Ukraine ignored a law requiring a separate referendum to be held in Crimea on the Crimean ASSR’s status within Ukraine. This action was taken deliberately, since Kiev knew perfectly well that the people of Crimea would never vote in favour of becoming part of Ukraine. Since 1991, Crimea and Ukraine have engaged in a continuous struggle and irreconcilable conflict: Crimea’s unambiguous goal of independence as an Autonomous Republic, and Ukraine’s forced subjugation of Crimea.

In February 1992, the Crimean Parliament transformed Crimea into the “Republic of Crimea,” and on 5 May 1992, declared Crimea independent, a decision to be approved by a referendum scheduled for 2 August 1992. In January 1992, the Russian Foreign Ministry and parliament condemned the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. In April 1992, Russian Vice President Ruskoi visited Crimea and called for secession from Ukraine. In response, the Ukrainian parliament, on 15 May 1992, annulled the Crimean declaration of independence and ordered the Crimean parliament to cancel the referendum within one week. Ukraine’s actions contradicted the results of the 1991 referendum whereby Crimea expressed its choice to become part of the Russian Federation, and dissolve any relationship with Ukraine.

On 25 September 1992, the Republic of Crimea adopted its first post-Soviet constitution. The preamble states:

“We, the People of Crimea, are free and equal in their rights and dignity of citizens of the Republic of Crimea of all nationalities that make up the people of Crimea, connected to the centuries-old ties of a common historical destiny, unequivocally condemned as criminal and inhuman acts committed by the totalitarian regime against the people of Crimea, recognizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights based on the desire to ensure social, economic and civil rights of the individual and a decent standard of life for all, affirm the Constitution and declare that the Constitution is the basic law of legal, democratic, secular State of Crimea.”

Article I of Chapter I [General Provisions] provides: the “Republic of Crimea is a legal, democratic, secular state in part of Ukraine” (emphasis mine). Section I, Ch. 3, Article 9 sets forth that all relationships between Crimea and Ukraine were to be governed by treaties between representatives of the respective governments. Article 9 further provides that amendments to the constitution were within the sole province of Crimea, and Article 9 lists explicitly matters under control of Crimea. Article 107 lists the organs of Crimean government: Parliament, President, Executive government, Constitutional Court and High Court. Other key provisions include:

  • Official Government Language (Russian) [Section I, Ch. 1, Art. 6]
  • Right to hold referenda on matters within its jurisdiction [Section I, Ch.3, Art. 9(2)(6)];
  • Can change government deputies within own framework [Section I, Ch. 3, Art. 9(2)(5)];
  • Own budget [Section I, Ch.3, Art. 9(2)(13)];
  • Military bases of Ukraine need approval of Crimean Government [Section I, Chapter 3, Art. 10(1) and (2)];
  • National Guard drawn from population of Crimea [Section I, Chapter 3, Art. 11];
  • Crimea has a Permanent Representative of the State in the capitol of Ukraine [Section I, Ch. 3, Art. 12(3)];
  • Can enter agreements with other States, international organisations; economy, culture, science, health, education, protection of environment and other [Section I, Ch.4, Art. 14]; and
  • Own flag, symbol and anthem [Section II, Art. 15(1)]

In short, excepting the reference to Ukraine, the 1992 constitution established Crimea as a State virtually equal in legal status as Ukraine, with the legal personality to conclude accords with Third States.

Following the adoption of the 1992 Constitution, Ukraine mounted a persistent campaign of interference in Crimean self-rule, with a primary aim to obtain a new constitution under which Crimea would be “under the thumb” of Ukraine. In addition, during the 1990’s, disputes arose over the division of the Black Sea Fleet, frequent anti-Ukraine protests took place, and Ukraine periodically enacted legislation to eliminate the Russian language. In 1993 alone, there were three major protests opposing Ukraine rule. On 10 January 1993, more than 2,000 protestors in the City of Sevastopol called for separation from Ukraine. During 18-20 January 1993, anti- Ukrainian demonstrations took place in Sevastopol and Simferopol. These demonstrations were organised by political groups. Their demands included the transfer of Crimea to Russia and the holding of new elections for all government institutions. Meshkov, the future president of Crimea, led the demonstration in Simferopol supported by 5,000 sympathisers. On 26 July 1993, approximately 2,000 demonstrators demanded the transfer of the Black Sea Fleet from Ukraine to Russia.

Concurrent protests took place regarding the division of the Black Sea Fleet. On 24 May 1993, 115 ships of the Black Sea Fleet raised the Russian flag based on discrepancies between pay received by Russian and Ukrainian sailors. On 1 June 1993, more than 200 ships of the Black Sea Fleet raised the Russian flag. On 29 July 1993, the Conference of Black Sea Fleet Officers protested the proposed division of the fleet. On 5 July 1993, 220 ships out of 223 flew the Russian flag. Disputes regarding the division of the Black Sea Fleet continued until Russia and Ukraine entered the 1997 Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet. Nevertheless, the Black Sea Fleet disputes demonstrate deep divisions between Crimea and Ukraine, and opposition to Ukraine rule over the territory of Crimea.

With unprecedented regularity, discord between Ukraine and Crimea continued during the decade of the 1990’s. In March 1995, the Ukrainian parliament rescinded Crimea’s 1992 constitution and abolished the post of Crimean President. Ukrainian president Kuchma said the region’s parliament could be dissolved if it continued to violate Ukraine’s Constitution. By abolishing the presidency, Ukraine left regional power in Crimea in the hands of its Prime Minister Anatoliy Franchuk. Officials said Ukrainian state ministries, including the military and police, would enforce Ukrainian laws and would dismantle the office of the Crimean president. As a result, unrest continued through May. Contrary to the will of Crimean authorities, Ukraine also recognized the Mejlis as the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people. On 18 March 1997, riot police in Crimea prevented about 1000 protestors from storming the parliament building in Simferopol during a demonstration calling for the return of the peninsula to Russia. Pro-Russian communist groups organized the demonstration attended by about 5000 people.

In 1998, Ukraine finally achieved its goal of effacing Crimean independence, with the adoption of the 23 December 1998 Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Ukraine. Section I, Ch. 1, Art.1(1) states that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea “is an integral part of Ukraine and, within the limits of the powers defined by the Constitution of Ukraine, it decides issues that are related to its jurisdiction.” However, the 1998 Constitution left nothing to be decided by Crimea without approval by Ukraine. The lack of independence of Crimea is exemplified by the following Constitutional provision: “Acts of the Council of Ministers of the Crimea are abolished by the President of Ukraine,” when opposed by the President. In addition, rights and freedoms of Crimean citizens derived from and were guaranteed by the Constitution and law of Ukraine. The 1998 Constitution also changed the official language of government from Russian to Ukraine. Consequently, the autonomy of the Republic of Crimea was left only in name, and turned the 1992 Constitution on its head. It may be inferred, based on the relentless interference of Kiev in Crimean politics, that the 1998 Constitution was the product of coercion.

In a parallel development, Ukraine unleashed its campaign to eradicate the Russian language. Kuchma initiated a policy to assert control over media using Russian as its language. Kiev ultimately reduced the amount of Russian-language broadcasting to four hours per week. On 15 January 1997, leaders of the Russian community in Crimea responded by claiming that the initiative amounted to a policy of “language aggression’ aimed at driving the Russian language out of Ukraine. Subsequently, on 15 October 1997, the Crimean parliament voted to make Russian the official language in place of Ukraine. On 5 November 1997, Kuchma issued a statement: Ukrainian is the only official language in Ukraine. On 4 February 1998, the Crimean parliament voted overwhelmingly to propose a referendum to include the following questions: [1] the peninsula’s return to Russia, [2] restoration of the 1992 Constitution, and [3] the adoption of Russian language as the official language of Crimea. The ratification of the European Charter on Local Languages and the Language of Minorities failed to settle the language dispute, as the Constitutional Court of Ukraine held that in all spheres of public life and activity, the Ukrainian language was compulsory.

In conclusion, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea never recognised the legitimacy of government by Ukraine. The events of 2013-14 were the logical result of preceding historical circumstances.

History [2013-14]

A chronicle of events in Kiev and in Crimea is required to establish the context of the decision of Crimea to separate from Ukraine and request integration to the Russian Federation. During the period 2013-14, events in Crimea did not occur in isolation, but were responses to the coup d’état that took place in Ukraine. The Euromaidan Revolution, supported by external forces, opened systemic conflicts within Ukraine, and unleashed dormant and ultra-national extreme groups, with the imprimatur of the United States, revealing a vein of ultra-nationalism running the course of Ukraine history. Words cannot replace the filmography and first-hand accounts

found in two documentaries filmed during and after the Euromaidan Revolution. Hence, Part Two recounts only the most salient points of the documentaries and draws upon other sources to reconstruct accurately the 2013-14 “happenings” on Maidan Square.

Preliminarily, relevant Ukrainian history is required to understand the “fascist” roots of Euromaidan. The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN] was established in 1929 in Western Ukraine. Stepan Bandera established and developed the ideology of OUN, and its military arm. Bandera’s aim was to purge all non-Ukrainians from the new State of Ukraine. His ideology spread quickly throughout Ukraine. The symbol of the group is a black and red flag. Ukraine openly collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War Two. During WWII, the OUN killed 80,000 Jews in Galicia. In 1941, in collaboration with Nazi Germany, the OUN was responsible for the deaths of 100,000 to 200,000 Jews. OUN also participated in the infamous “Babi-Yar” incident when Ukraine militia killed 33,771 Jews. Bandera did not limit his ethnic cleansing to Jews. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the military arm of OUN, massacred 35,000 to 60,000 Polish victims in Volhynia, and 25,000 to 40,000 in Eastern Galicia during the period 1943-44. “Declassified CIA documents and other sources show that the OUN and UPA after the war were used by the US and British intelligence services against the Soviet Union,” until Bandera’s death in Munich in 1959. Ukrainian Nazi’s were not subject to the Nuremburg trials; the CIA granted Bandera and other members of OUN amnesty for their actions, citing “necessity” as the legal justification.

After the USSR collapsed, Ukrainian nationalist and Neo-Nazi organisations proliferated. In 1991, consistent with OUN’s radical nationalism, Oleh Tyahnybok established the Social- National Party [SNP] of Ukraine. The Party’s symbol is the neo-Nazi “Wolfsangel.” In 1994, SNP was renamed “Svoboda” [“Freedom” in Ukrainian]. Other major far right organisations that were formed and played key roles in the Maidan Revolution were: the Right Sector, the Social National Assembly, Trident, the White Hammer, the UNA-UNSO, Bratstvo, and C-14.

Paramilitary factions provided military support for each group. All major far right organisations participated in Euromaidan with one common goal: conduct a national revolution to overthrow the pro-Russian Yanukovych government and to forge a Ukrainian nation in their image. Right-wing political parties played key and violent roles in the Maidan Revolution. Though members of organised far-right political groups comprised a minority of protesters during the 2013-14 Euromaidan Revolution, they nevertheless conducted violent attacks, such as the “Snipers’ Massacre” necessary to overthrow the government of Yanokovich.

US meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine appeared as early as 1983 with the foundation of the National Endowment for Democracy [NED]. According to then Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Zaharchenko, the NED was a CIA entity. The NED pushed US interests, and trained activists and journalists, especially in the art of using social media to advocate political position and to manipulate information and images to go “viral” in support of their cause. The use of NGO’s and other foundations as CIA instruments had its roots in the Reagan era. Foreign journalists, including those in Ukraine, received US grants to encourage and support protests. The US also issued manuals entitled “How to Counter Berkut,” instructing how to pull off helmets, and providing instruction on a tactical manoeuvre entitled “Carpathian Beech” to disarm, defeat, and kill Berkut. Early in November 2013, three new broadcasting channels emerged: hromadsk.tv, spilno.tv, and ecpreco.tv, each broadcasting support for the opposition.

In November 2013, President Yanukovich declined to sign an association agreement with the EU, primarily on economic grounds, and after the IMF proposed unacceptable terms for a loan. The President signed an alternative agreement with the Russian Federation providing for greater integration of Ukraine and Russian markets. On 17 December 2013, on the basis of a Russian- Ukraine inter-governmental committee, President Yanukovich and President Putin held a meeting and signed agreements specifying, for example, that Ukraine would construct equipment, commercial vessels, airplanes, and the Kerch Strait bridge. The value of these agreements exceeded billions of dollars of Russian investment in Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine would receive 30% discount on the price of gas. In contrast, the EU did not make any concrete proposals for investment.

In response, on 21 November 2013, the first mass protests took place on Maidan Square. Police, deployed to the square, were unarmed and did not use any force against the protesters. However, radicals representing far right national parties were spotted in the crowd. On 24 November 2013, protesters engaged in the first aggressive action when they attacked a government office and attacked police guarding the building. On 25 November 2013, protesters attacked security officers. Arseniy Yatsenuk, leader of the Fatherland Party, Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Svoboda Party, and Vitali Klitschko, leader of the Udar Party, were already present on the square to organise protesters and to incite the crowd to pressure the government.

On 30 November 2013, the first key turning point of Euromaidan, Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaliy Zaharchenko received a telephone call from Aleksandr Popov, Head of Kiev Administration seeking permission to install the annual Christmas tree on Maidan Square. Zaharchenko refused the request, stating that no action should be taken while protesters were on the Square. In addition, President Yanukovich explicitly refused to authorise the police to use force to disperse the protesters. Although initial reports indicated that the crowd began to disperse at approximately 1 a.m., protesters attacked the police and the police used rubber bats against them. Best evidence shows that Serhiy Lyovchki, Head of Presidential Administration, and a close associate of Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, ordered the use of force. Further, the protesters were expecting the police, and groups of well-trained men arrived on the Square at the same time as police. The trained individuals, members of the Right Sector shipped to Kiev as muscle for the protesters, spread within the crowd and provoked police with insults, stones, and torches. Violence erupted, news of events spread, and the next day more people gathered on the Square.

Subsequently, in December 2013, following a well-known pattern of “Colour Revolutions,” the Euromaidan protest turned from a peaceful demonstration to a violent uprising. According to President Yanukovich, members of neo-Nazi organisations, armed with iron bars, bats, tractors, and Molotov cocktails, arrived on the Square and, with these weapons, attacked the police thereby escalating the violence. Concurrently, during this period, several US officials visited Kiev. Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, went to the Maidan, condemned the actions of police, and voiced support for the protesters. The US Senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, also stood on a stage telling the crowd present on Maidan Square that the US and EU jointly supported opposition to the Ukraine government. Moreover, Senator John McCain, a former US presidential candidate, addressed the Maidan crowd, telling them, “[W]e will come here at this square to celebrate with you. Ukraine stands together with the EU and US.” President Yanukovich correctly observed that McCain, and his supporting cast of US officials, openly told the crowd to act against a democratically elected government.

The Euromaidan Revolution did not “happen”; Euromaidan was made, principally by US government foreign policy. On 17 February 2014, BBC News published an article entitled, “Transcript of Leaked Nuland-Pyatt Call.” At the time of the conversation, Victoria Nuland was US Assistant Secretary of State and Geoffrey Pyatt was the US Ambassador to Ukraine. Early in the conversation, Pyatt states, “I think we’re in play. The Klitschko … piece is obviously the complicated electron here.” Reference is made to an announcement that Klitschko, a former World Champion boxer, would serve as Deputy Prime Minister in the new government, a development objected to both by Nuland and Pyatt. Nuland states, “I don’t think Klitschko should go into government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it is a good idea.”

Pyatt agrees, and remarks, “The problem is going to be Tyahnybok [Leader of Svoboda] and his guys. [Parenthetically, the fact that Pyatt refers to Yanukovich as President evidences that the telephone conversation preceded 22 February 2014, when Yanukovich was overthrown]. Nuland then breaks in and says, “I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience … what he needs is Klitschko and Tyahnybok on the outside,” providing stealth-like support. Pyatt agrees unreservedly with her planned scenario. Anticipating resistance from Klitschko about his US designated role in the new regime, Pyatt tells Nuland to call him for purposes of “personality management,” and to cut off problems before Yatsenik, Klitschko, and Tyahnybok hold a planned meeting.

The subject matter of the call then turns to a conversation between Nuland and Jeff Feltman, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, referring to a new appointee, Robert Serry. Nuland states that, “Feltman has arranged, with the approval of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, that Serry will visit Kiev on Monday or Tuesday,” presumably the next week. Having obtained the support of the UN, Nuland states, “Fuck the EU.” Pyatt states that US plans for Ukraine must proceed in haste as he fears “the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it.” Pyatt mentions that he will work with Yanukovich, while Nuland focuses upon recruiting someone with an “international personality” to come to Kiev, and “help mid-wife this thing.” That “international personality” was US Vice-President Joseph Biden, who already had agreed to visit Ukraine.

Simultaneously, the US opened its campaign to demonise neo-conservatives, identify “sacral victims,” and create “martyrs,” conventional “colour revolution” tactics. These efforts partially were aimed at brainwashing the American public to secure popular support for US activity in Ukraine. The media portrayed Yanukovich in his worst light and blamed the ills of the region upon President Putin and the Russian Federation. In late 2013, there was no shortage of “sacral victims” to maintain protest momentum and to provide a trigger to set the planned chain of events in motion. One hundred victims of Euromaidan were mythologised as the “Heavenly Hundred,” and on 30 November 2013, reports emerged of students being beaten, impliedly by improper police action.

On 25 December 2013, Tetiana Chornovol, a member of the Fatherland Party, and a journalist known for making, not reporting news, was found beaten. Images of her bloodied face quickly spread through social media and world media insisted that the beating was a political act. She became a martyr of the Euromaidan revolution. Her heroic deeds include trespassing upon the President’s summer residence and attacking the “Office of the Region’s Party.” Claiming that the latter comprised a nest of criminals, Euromaidan death squads operated from the building during the “Snipers’ Massacre” in 2014. On 22 January 2014, Sergei Nigoyan, an Armenian/Ukrainian protester, who recited poems on Maidan, was killed and, like Chornovol, became another martyr of the revolution. While police were blamed as his killers, Ukrainian prosecutors, after a two-year investigation, failed to confirm the claim and circumstances of his death remain unknown.

On 20 February 2014, mass killings of protesters took place, preceded by mass killings of police. The “Snipers’ Massacre” arguably was the key turning point in Ukrainian politics. Katchanovski, a political studies expert at Ottawa University, conducted the most extensive investigation of the “Snipers’ Massacre.” He states, “This academic investigation concludes that the massacre was a false flag operation which was rationally planned and carried out with the goal of the overthrow of the government and seizure of power.” He further concludes that “concealed shooters,” most likely drawn from the Right Sector and Svoboda, “were located in at least 20 Maidan controlled buildings or areas.” Quoting an interview given by a Maidan shooter to a Ukrainian newspaper, the Maidan shooter stated that “he was firing upon police from the Music Conservatory building for about 20 minutes around 6:00 a.m. and saw about 10 other Maidan shooters doing the same.” “A BBC investigation includes photos showing Maidan shooters armed with hunting rifles and a Kalashnikov assault rifle inside the Music Conservatory shortly after 8:00 am.” In early morning, shooters from the Music Conservatory wounded at least 5 policeman on the Maidan, as a Berkut commander reported that “his unit’s casualties increased to 21 wounded and three killed within half an hour.” Katchanovski concludes, “a rational explanation … is that the police retreated because of the use of live ammunition by small armed protestor units, who were using live ammunition against the police from concealed positions in these two buildings [the Music Conservatory and Trade Union Buildings].” Similarity of wounds found on protesters killed on Maidan indicate that they were equally victims of Maidan shooters.

Three European Ministers: Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steimeier, and Ridoslav Sikorski came to Kiev, ultimately in vain, to broker a truce between the government and protestors. Opposition leaders clarified immediately that they were unwilling to negotiate with the Yanukovich government. Andriy Parubiy, the self-proclaimed Maidan Commandant and leader of the radical opposition, stated that, “If our demands are not fulfilled,” Maidan intends to take more action. Klitschko informed the crowd “to be alert, to stay strong; we are not going anywhere.” Dmitry Yorosh of the Right Sector stated that the Right Sector will not lower its arms, and will not leave occupied buildings until all demands are met: the primary demand being the resignation of President Yanukovich. The overthrow of the Yanukovich government was sealed.

The next day, 22 February 2014, Yanukovich, without resigning his office, left Kiev for Kharkov. Shortly after, the opposition, armed with weapons, seized the presidential office. Yanukovich asked President Putin for help and Putin agreed. On 23 February 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament announced the appointment of Alexandr Turchinov as acting president. The removal of President Yanukovich did not follow the impeachment procedure, as impeachment required 338 positive votes out of 450 members, while only 328 voted for impeachment. In spite of the illegal overthrow of the democratically elected Ukraine government, the United States immediately called the new Regime legitimate thereby closing any practical possibility to restore Yanukovich to power. Paul Craig Roberts succinctly stated, “What … happened in Ukraine is the United States organised and financed a coup…the coup elements included ultra-right wing nationalists whose roots go back to organisations that fought for Hitler in the Second World War against the Soviet Union.”

The interim government, installed by the United States, consisted of: Interim President, Olexander Turchynov, the deputy leader of Fatherland; Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, also a member of the Fatherland Party; Deputy Prime Minister, Oleksandr Sych, a member of the far-right nationalist Svoboda [Freedom] Party; Interior Minister, Arsen Avolkov, a member of the Fatherland Party; Foreign Minister, Andriy Deshchitsya, a supporter of the Maidan movement; National Security Chief, Andriy Parubiy, a member of the Fatherland Party and the so-called Commander of the protest movement; Deputy National Security Leader, Dmitry Yarosh, leader of the militant ultra-right wing group [Right Sector]; Sports and Youth Minister, Dmytro Bulatov, a businessman and leader of Avtomaidan, a mobile patrol group using cars to protect Euromaidan protesters, and Tetyana Chernovil, exact role unknown, the journalist and activist infamous for her seizure of government buildings. This motley group, and 21 cabinet members drawn mainly Yatsenyuk’s Fatherland Party, were never elected to govern Ukraine.

History [Events in Crimea in 2014]

The Crimean Peninsula, and its predominantly Russian speaking residents, were not insulated from the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Ukraine government. After the opposition took control of Kiev, the nationalists went after anyone who objected to their taking of power, including Crimean residents who had travelled to the Maidan to oppose the Euromaidan movement. The bus convoy, carrying Crimean residents back home, though escorted by police cars was led into an ambush, now called the Korsun massacre. Kondrashov’s interview with drivers and passengers on the busses evidences the illegal killings, property destruction, and the appalling conduct of ultra-nationalist groups involved in the attack.

Roman Yakovlev, the head of the Bus Convoy and Simferopol resident, stated that the convoy of buses was blocked in the Cherkossy region. Alexander Belyi, an auto-mechanic and resident of Simferopol, and Alexander Bochkeryov, deputy regiment commander of the Crimean self-defence forces, both confirmed that the convoy was blocked at both ends thereby preventing its journey to Crimea. According to Bochkeryov, men armed with clubs mounted the buses and started to beat passengers, and a man armed with a gun started shooting people at point blank range. Alexei Grebnev, a bus passenger and Simferopol resident, stated that his bus driver was shot in the head while seated in the driver’s seat. The mob began to smash bus windows and throw stones. They said, “Come out or we’ll burn you alive.” In addition, according to Belyi, the mob forced passengers to sing the Ukrainian national anthem and shout “Glory to Ukraine,” while beating passengers with clubs. Without detailing each act of criminality, seven members of the bus convoy were killed, four of the eight buses were burned, and 20 persons were missing.

Meanwhile, President Putin in Moscow personally conducted the rescue operation of Yanukovich and members of his entourage from southern Ukraine. In response to the outburst of extreme nationalism, President Putin decided that, if necessary, the Russian Federation would help avoid bloodshed and armed conflict in Crimea. Subsequently, Kiev declared Simferopol the “seat of enemies” of Maidan and ordered the demolition of the Lenin monument within 10 days. The ultimatum induced the local population to take to the streets and to form self-defence forces. Sergei Aksyonov, Head of the Republic of Crimea and Leader of the All-Ukrainian Party Russian Unity [2008-2014], held daily training sessions for Crimean self- defence units. Aksyonov was prepared to stop anyone from taking down the monument, a symbol of stability and a challenge to authorities to control the situation.

When Aksyonov announced the “Crimean Spring,” he did not know Russia would support Crimea. Addressing the crowd with a loudspeaker, he stated “Together: we will build our Crimea! Peace to Crimea!” President Putin had never heard of Aksyonov. When he asked the Chairman of the Crimean Parliament about him, the Chairman replied, “he’s like Che Guevara.” On 22 February 2014, Berkut officers returned to Sevastopol and to Simferopol. In Kiev, during Maidan protests, the opposition attacked members of Berkut with fire and guns. Kiev, nevertheless, accused Berkut of sniper fire, an accusation never confirmed after years of investigation. At this time, criminal cases were opened against Berkut officers and commanders throughout Ukraine. Arsen Avokov, appointed Minister of Internal Affairs by the Verkhana Rada, issued an order to disband Berkut, and declared that any army unit that did not obey order would be deemed an illegal armed gang. Only in Crimea were Berkut treated as heroes.

On 22 February 2014, Yuriy Abisov, Commander of the Crimean Berkut battalion, and later appointed Commander of the Special Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Crimea, stated, “the decision to separate from Ukraine was made on Lenin Square by Crimeans.” After, Abisov called a meeting of all Berkut officers and asked them whether they preferred to maintain allegiance to Kiev or to defend Crimea. The officers unanimously decided to fight against Kiev. After Maidan, the Crimean Berkut introduced new elements to their training regime by modifying the manner of self-protection based on experience in Kiev. In the City of Sevastopol, officers and residents alike expressed unambiguously their objection to the new Regime in Kiev. In December 2013, two months before the Snipers’ Massacre on Maidan Square, Viktor Melnikov, member of the Third Rapid Response Company of Sevastopol, and Afghanistan war veteran, organised a self-defence force. Virtually all residents of Sevastopol joined the self-defence forces. As of this date, the Russian Federation had not provided any support, military or otherwise, to Crimea.

On 26 February 2014, the Supreme Council of Crimea called an emergency meeting to discuss holding a referendum to determine the status of the autonomous region. According to Aksyonov, Kiev instructed leaders of the Crimean Mejlis to prevent the government from holding meetings: the goal being the seizure of the Crimean parliament. Kiev dispatched members of the Right Sector to support Mejlis. A large crowd assembled in front of the Government building in Simferopol. Members of the Right Sector waved “Bandera Flags.” The first clashes began around mid-day. As the crowd pushed and shoved, one old man was trampled to death. Bottles with water, sand, and a “strange powder” were thrown into crowd from areas occupied by Mejlis and the Right Sector, identified by their flags. In addition, men wearing gas masks used nerve gas and threw dust ground from fluorescent lamps into the crowd. Those covered by dust could not see. Approximately 30 people were injured and taken to the hospital. Injured Crimeans pressed back, and the crowd stormed the Parliament.

However, after the crowd entered the building and saw their compatriots sitting in session, the Crimean Tartars got flustered, and did not know what to do. The Mejlis leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, stopped issuing orders by telephone. The Right Sector did not enter the building. Aksyonov, his face beaten, moved from the central door, and tried to break the fight. Using a loud speaker, he said, “Crimeans are expecting people of all nationalities to come here for holiday, to work, and to be friends.” Enver Kurtamentov, Commander of the 15th Company of the Crimean Self-Defence forces, spoke directly to his compatriot Tartars to counter false statements made by the Mejlis leader and urged them to disband peacefully. The Tartars were told that, if Crimea were returned to Russia, they would be deported to Magadan or the Urals. Kurtamentov said, “your life can’t get worse because it is already as bad as it can be.” The Parliament building never was seized, the protesters left without additional incident, and decided to disobey orders issued by Ukrainian authorities.

On 27 February 2014, the so-called “Friendship Train” departed Kiev for Crimea. Ihor Mosiychuk, a Right Sector leader, said “Crimean separatists would pay for everything.” Mosiychuk was the individual behind the “Friendship Train” initiative. The train was scheduled to arrive in Simferopol by 20:15, after which the Right Sector was to conduct a punitive operation. Having notice of the operation, Mikhail Sheremet, Commander of the Crimean People’s Defence Forces, organised a militia of approximately 1,500 members, to “prevent nationalists from entering our land.” The militia consisted of business people, ordinary workers, and people from all walks of life. The militia carried bats, metal bars, and whatever was available, as they lacked firearms. They also carried tri-coloured painted steel shields forged especially for them by local blacksmiths to help protect them against gunfire, and particularly fire from Molotov cocktails. After waiting on the train platform for three hours, Sheremet received a call that the train was about to arrive. The militia used the shields to form a steel barrier. When the train arrived two hours later, it was empty. Ukrainian Security Service forces alerted the Right Sector that a militia was waiting for them at the train station. Before arriving in Crimea, the Banderites stopped the train and unloaded their weapons.

On 27 February 2014, Samvel Martoyan, the most famous self-defence commander, former Soviet officer, and resident of Crimea, received a combat order from Aksyonov to take control of the Simferopol airport. Earlier, he had formed the 4th Company. Intending to land an assault force in Simferopol, the airport became Crimea’s main threat. Armed only with shovel handles, Martoyan and his militia arrived at the Simferopol airport. They encountered armed police officers standing in their way. The police, sympathetic to local self-defence forces, let Martoyan and his group proceed. Martoyan’s plan was to set fire to fuel barrels that his militia had placed along the runway, making it impossible to land an aircraft. The militia lit the torches, and Martoyan called Aksyonov for orders to proceed. Thirty seconds later, Aksyonov informed Martoyan that Kiev had been informed that the runway had been seized and that landing was impossible.

Immediately after, Ukrainian Security Service forces, and operatives from its Crimean Division who supported the Euromaidan government, arrived on the runway and encountered Martoyan. The Security Service forces were armed with assault rifles. The spokesperson informed Martoyan that he and his militia had entered a restricted area and that the trespass constituted a terrorist act. The Security Service forces were given orders to shoot. Martoyan heard trucks approaching; he did not know who was in the trucks. Martoyan instructed his men to get ready for battle. The trucks pulled up and soldiers jumped out. Martoyan realised that they were Russian soldiers, the “polite little green men.” Commandos from the Black Sea Fleet’s Marine Force arrived from Sevastopol. The Ukrainian Security Service disappeared. The Russian soldiers seized strategic positions and established control over the airport. The seizure of the Simferopol airport was the first Russian armed intervention in Crimea.

President Putin argued that he had to ensure that the Crimean Parliament could operate, convene, meet, and carry out activities prescribed by law. President Putin openly admitted that Russian intelligence was following unsecured communications within Ukraine and that Russia was aware of the institutional structure of military units on ground and Kiev commanders. Vladimir Konstantinov, Head of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea, stated that security was important, so Russian protection was needed and welcomed. Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, stated, “soldiers never went to fight but to defend and protect.”

On 27 February 2014, Russian SWAT teams then secured government buildings in Simferopol. Deputies of Parliament voted [68 out of 69] to change completely the members of the Ministry. The MPs elected Sergei Aksenov as Head of Government and Temirgalyev as first Prime Minister. Konstantinov reported that members of Parliament also voted in favour of holding a referendum to decide the future of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. On 1 March 2014, the Ministers of Cabinet decided to take all military on territory of Crimea, under their jurisdiction, and asked for Russian support as peace mission. On the same date, Aksenov asked Putin to provide help to maintain peace on territory of Crimea. Shortly after, Russian military in Sevastopol blocked Ukrainian military vessels from leaving their appointed ports in the same area. On 4 March 2014, Aksenov reported that Russian military were present in Crimea to protect Crimean people; the Russian soldiers blocked the Ukrainian military base near Simferopol, to prevent Ukraine military from entering Crimean territory. These Ukrainian military units were given the option to go back to Ukraine, or to join Russian forces. Starting 2 March 2014, 5,086 Ukraine soldiers present in different bases opted to protect Crimean population.

Russian military forces acted in conjunction with local self-defence forces, Berkut fighters, Cossacks, and myriad volunteer groups committed to preventing Kiev from taking Crimea by assault. For example, the Cossack Kuban Host provided 450 members to help Berkut fighters to seal the border with Ukraine. The Cossacks and Berkut dug trenches and erected barriers to defend the Perekop Peninsula, and the Changar and Turetsky passes. In response, the Right Sector asked Kiev to send reinforcements; troops and multiple rocket launchers were sent to the border. Only then did Putin deploy weapon systems at the border to counteract any action taken by Kiev. Alexander Ovcharenko, Deputy Commander of Berkut Special Police Forces, noted that when Kiev failed to pierce the border, Kiev adopted a new tactic: organise deliveries of equipment to create a Maidan-like event in Crimea. Thus, on 10 March 2014, a Ukrainian military truck, carrying automatic weapons and ammunition, attempted to break through the Turetsky pass, but was stopped by Oleg Gorshkov, a Berkut soldier, who drove his car into the truck.

On 11 March 2014, the Crimean Government made a Declaration of Independence, dependent on outcome of the referendum. The Crimean parliament adopted the Declaration of Independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol by 78 votes to 81. The Declaration provided that if, the requisite number of votes are obtained, that the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, would become an independent multinational State. The Declaration further provided that the Republic of Crimea, an independent State, then would request that the Russian Federation, by means of an international treaty, integrate the Republic of Crimea as a constituent part of the Russian Federation. Article 137 of Ukrainian Constitution enabled Ukraine to stop the decision of Crimean government by issuing a formal order and petitioning the Constitutional Court to determine whether Crimean decisions were consistent with Constitution. These procedures never were followed and no order ever issued.

On 16 March 2014, Crimea held the referendum. The total number of persons who voted comprised 1,274,096, or 83.10% of those eligible to vote. 1,233,002 voters, or 96.77% of eligible voters voted “Yes” to become part of the Russian Federation. 31,997 [2.51% out of total votes] elected to revise the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and remain as part of Ukraine. Improperly completed voting ballots amounted to 9097 [0.72%]. On 18 March 2014, the “Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on the Acceptance of the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation and on the Creation of New Federative Entities within the Russian Federation” was signed thereby incorporating Crimea and the City of Sevastopol into the Russian Federation.

On 27 March 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding Resolution affirming the General Assembly’s commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders and underscored the invalidity of the 2014 Crimean referendum. The non-binding resolution was supported by 100 United Nation Member States; eleven States voted against the Resolution; 58 States abstained; and 24 States were absent and did not vote.

Part Two: Conclusions Drawn and the Poverty of Public International Law

Key Conclusions Drawn from Part One

In 1991, the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol declared political independence from Ukraine and elected to form an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) as a subject of the USSR. The declaration contained no reference to being part of Ukraine, a Republic of the USSR, as Ukraine had not yet seceded from the USSR. During 1991, three Republics of the USSR: the Russian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian Republics, took it upon themselves, to disintegrate the Soviet Union, contrary to the federal law of the USSR. The Crimean declaration of independence conformed to the planned reform of the USSR and was recognised as legitimate by President Mikhail Gorbachev. Subsequently, in December 1991, Ukraine declared itself a Sovereign State distinct from the USSR.

The Crimean and Ukrainian declarations never have been squared, though they are inconsistent. The Crimean declaration severed ties with Ukraine, as the declaration unquestionably implied a preference to remain part of the Soviet Union. However, without articulating legal grounds, Ukraine swept the ASSR into its territorial compass, without the consent of the Crimean government and population. Subsequently, in 1992, the Republic of Crimea adopted its Constitution. Article 1 states: the “Republic of Crimea is a legal, democratic, secular state in part of Ukraine” (emphasis authors). The Constitution provided that all agreements defining the legal relationship between Crimea and Ukraine were to be embodied in international treaties, with Crimea having the authority to enter treaties with Third party states. While the concept of a “State within a State,” arguably the product of historical vestige, requires reconciliation, nevertheless, the 1992 Constitution established Crimea as a State independent from Ukraine.

In international law, the requirements of statehood are set out in Article 1 of the so-called Montevideo Convention of 1933.A State should possess the following attributes: (a) a permanent population, (b) a defined territory, (c) government, and (d) a capacity to enter relations with other states. In international law, the function of “recognition,” divided into two schools of thought, is a controversial issue in international law and does not require a digression from the present discussion. In 1992, the Republic of Crimea possessed the attributes of a state as defined by the Montevideo Convention of 1933, as confirmed by the 1992 Constitution. The dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the declaration of independence of the Republic of Crimea in 1991, and its 1992 Constitution establishing Crimea as a State were separate events that cannot be conflated.

Consequently, when Ukraine declared its independence from the USSR in late 1991, the inclusion in its territory of the Republic of Crimea comprised an arbitrary decision made by then Ukraine President Kravchuk. It follows that Ukraine incorporated [“annexed”] the Republic of Crimea in 1991 by coercion leading to the conclusion that since 1991, Ukraine has unlawfully occupied the Republic of Crimea. In 1994, Crimeans elected Yuriy Meshkov, a strongly pro-Russian candidate, as their president. A second referendum was held in 1994 whereby 78.4% of those who voted supported greater autonomy from Ukraine; 82.8% supported allowing dual Russian-Ukrainian citizenship; and 77.9% favoured giving Crimean presidential decrees the force of law. The 1992 Constitution provided legal grounds for the election, the office of President, and holding of the Referendum.

In response, in March 1995, the Ukrainian parliament unilaterally abolished the office of President of Crimea and terminated the 1992 Constitution. The Crimean parliament was forced to draft a new Constitution, which the Ukrainian parliament ratified in 1998. The new constitution destroyed the autonomy of the Republic of Crimea, making all critical decisions taken by the Crimean parliament subject to approval of the Ukrainian parliament. No principle of municipal or public international law justified the unilateral decision of President Kuchma to “throw out” the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea, abolish the Crimean office of President, and coerce the Crimean parliament to draft a constitution to subordinate the Peninsula to Ukraine control. Therefore, the 1992 Constitution retained its validity until the Crimean reunification with the Russian Federation.

Consequently, the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol did not secede from Ukraine in 2014. Rather, the Republic of Crimea regained its independence as a State that had come into existence in 1991-92. The decision by the Crimean government, supported overwhelmingly by the results of the 2014 referendum, to request “annexation” by the Russian Federation was lawful. Moreover, in 2014, the new regime in Kiev never followed constitutional procedures under Article 131 of the Ukraine Constitution to oppose the breaking away of part of its territory [Crimea]. Since formal opposition is a condition precedent to prohibit unilateral secession, then the Republic of Crimea had the right of unilateral secession. Further, it is questionable whether the new regime had legal authority to act as an instrumentality of the State.

Consistent with this interpretation, the Russian Federation did not “invade” the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The Russian Federation had the right under the 1997 Partition Treaty to maintain troops in the territory of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, subject to restrictions set forth in the Treaty. In response to the unlawful overthrow of the Yanukovich regime, and the installation of a non-elected regime comprising ultra-nationalists, with the external support of the United States, the population of Crimea formed self-styled militias to fight against subjugation by Kiev and to realise the goal of a twenty-three year Crimean struggle to liberate itself from Ukraine. The self-organised militia, Berkut officers committed to Crimean independence, the Kuban Cossack Host, and informal opposition groups, took the first steps to fend off efforts by the Right Sector and other military arms of far right political parties to occupy Crimea. Illustrative of acts by local militia to fight Kiev extremists, by whatever means necessary, is the “Friendship Train” incident.

First efforts to secure the Simferopol airport from military aircraft arriving from Kiev to assault Simferopol were taken by Samvel Martoyan’s 4th Company on 27 February 2014. Members of his company were armed with shovel handles, and were over-matched by the well-armed Ukrainian Security Service that confronted Martoyan and his militia on the runway of the Simferopol airport. It was on this date, and with the consent of the Crimean parliament, that the Russian military made its first appearance outside military bases to prevent Kiev from delivering weapons to Crimea. The claims of unlawful “invasion” rest upon faulty factual premises. The Russian federation did not violate the “sanctity” of the territory of Ukraine, because, since 1992 the Republic of Crimea was an independent State. The Russian Federation provided military support to Crimea to permit the population of Crimea to exercise political and civil rights in an orderly manner, absent a threat from foreign and armed Ukraine forces present in Crimea, and to avoid a civil war. While the State of Ukraine survived the US supported coup d’état, the Ukraine government, the sole instrumentality through which a State can act, lacked any authority to act as an instrumentality of the State. In this bizarre twist of events, the Russian Federation acted proportionately, under an invitation from Crimea, to protect ethnic Russians and other nationals residing in Crimea, and to avoid a War.

“Interventions aimed at restoring the legitimate government upon invitation have to be distinguished from interventions whose aim is regime change – that is, overthrowing the government in place.” The ICJ decision in the Nicaragua case, “that there is no general right of states to intervene in support of an internal opposition in another state, even if this opposition is deemed to pursue a politically or morally valuable cause,” may be distinguished on the ground that the Crimean conflict in 2014 was international in character.

The extant literature fails to address the legal significance of these facts: [1] the 1991 declaration by the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol to become an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) under the then existing USSR headed by President Gorbachev; [2] the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea whereby Crimea declared itself a State; [3] the 1995 unilateral termination of the 1992 Constitution by Ukraine and abolition of the Crimean office of President; [4] the adoption of the 1998 Constitution, the product of Coercion exercised by Ukraine against Crimea, effectively subjugating Crimea to Ukraine; [5] the legal effect of the coup d’état, with the demonstrable external support of the United States, and the installation of a non-elected interim government comprising far right-wing nationalists, upon the rights of self-determination and secession of the Crimean population, and [6] the complex history of Crimea and, since 1991 its fierce struggle for independence from Ukraine. Prior to evaluating the legality of Crimea’s “secession” and “annexation” under public international law, the preceding and fundamental questions must be addressed.

The Poverty of Public International Law

The aim of the Crimean referendum in 2014 was not to become a “State” per se, but to join the Russian Federation, an already existing State, with international legal personality, a member of the United Nations, and a State holding the status of a “Great Power.” Crimea wanted to switch “Masters.” However, public international law does not provide a procedure to achieve this objective, as demonstrated by the Åland Islands case. Therefore, Crimea had to go through the formality of a Two-Day State. The extant literature fails to address this precise question and produces uninspiring but endless and futile legal analysis.

Public international law reposes primarily upon the monopoly of State power. Secession is not tolerated for no more complex a reason than that States oppose it. However, since World War II, in raw numbers, the number of states quadrupled from 45 to 195. In addition, there were 55 violent revolutions, 54 non-violent regime changes, and in the last 60 years alone 227 military coups occurred. The “right of self-determination,” exercised by former colonies or non-self-governing territories and peoples, accounts for the proliferation of many, but not all, new states. Doctrines, such as “remedial secession,” have introduced further complexity into the relationship between States and subordinate units seeking independence. Efforts to impose coherence upon public international law have produced tortured legal analyses as demonstrated by decisions such as the ICJ Advisory Opinion in Kosovo and the Canadian Supreme Court opinion in Reference re Secession of Quebec.

The Canadian Supreme Court parsed the question of whether a hypothetical secession of the Province of Quebec would violate the Canadian constitution. Adopting a broad reading of the Canadian Constitution, the Court observed that “a clear majority vote in Quebec on a clear question in favour of secession would confer democratic legitimacy on the secession initiative which all of the other participants in Confederation would have to recognize.” In other words, the terms of secession would be subject to negotiations with all other provinces. The Court’s remark, “Although there is no right, under the Constitution or at international law, to unilateral secession, the possibility of an unconstitutional declaration of secession leading to a de facto secession is not ruled out” is obiter dictum and does not formulate a general principle of international law to follow. The question raised is: why a decision of a municipal Court in Canada is invoked to evaluate the secession in the Republic of Crimea.

The ICJ Advisory Opinion in Kosovo is equally non-dispositive. The UN General Assembly referred the following question to the ICJ: ‘Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?’” The ICJ found that “State practice during this period points clearly to the conclusion that international law contained no prohibition of declarations of independence.” However, although Kosovo declared itself a State, and certain States recognized Kosovo as a State, the ICJ refused to address the question of statehood. The ICJ expressly observed that the question referred, “does not ask about the legal consequences of that declaration. In particular, it does not ask whether or not Kosovo has achieved statehood.” Likewise, the ICJ skirted the question of whether, outside the context of non-self-governing territories and peoples subject to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation, the international law of self-determination confers upon part of the population of an existing State a right to separate from that State,” and equally refused to address the issue of “remedial secession.”

The individual cases often cited by the paradigmatic argument” do not provide guidance as to the right of secession and cannot distinguish away the Crimean incident. The “stock inventory” cited is: the Åland Islands, Bangladesh, and Kosovo [a client State of the US/EU and non- member of the UN]. The cases share the common ground of a subordinate territory controlled by a malevolent master: an internationally recognized State. Although the minority populations in the cases of Bangladesh and Kosovo suffered atrocities, it would be perverse to order a population, such as the population of Crimea, to undergo wrongs of an equivalent nature before the right of secession comes into existence.

The only point of unambiguity is the obligation of States not to interfere in the internal matters of other States. However, State practice, at least as measured by the behavior of the United States, is that this fundamental obligation is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. It cannot seriously be argued that the United States had a right to support the overthrow of the Yanukovich government.

The Failure to Consider Practical Consequences

Pronouncing that Crimea’s unilateral secession from Ukraine was illegal under international law implies that the Crimean/Russian reunification must be unwound, returning the Republic of Crimea to Ukraine. This argument thus leads to the following result: the population of Crimea, contrary to its will, is to be nailed to a cross of misery, despair, and economic inefficiency, as evidenced by 23 years of misrule under Ukraine. Calls to “give back” Crimea to Ukraine are ambiguous: what exactly is to be given back: the territory of the peninsula, the territory plus its living population, or the territory minus the population and exhumation of the dead. If a strict application of public international law requires a repatriation of Crimea to Ukraine, then public international law fails to fulfil its ultimate objective of international peace and the vindication of individual rights. Additional support for this conclusion is found in the arguably perverse requirement that a population must await atrocity to invoke the right of remedial recession.

If a principal goal of public international law is to mitigate human suffering, the question arises: what should the Russian Federation have done in response to developments in Kiev and Crimea. The paradigmatic argument answers: “do nothing.” However, the inaction of the Russian Federation most likely would have resulted in a civil war in the Republic of Crimea. As President Putin observed, “the Republic of Crimea is not a terra incognito.” In addition, Crimea is located proximate to the territory of the Russian Federation and falls within its domain of national interest.

Part Three: Constructing a Pragmatic Argument for Crimean Independence

The redrawn border of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol is consistent with history, politics, and economic analysis. In 1991, the borders of the Republic of Crimea were redrawn by exogenous variables, an unfavourable development under the economic analysis of law, resulting in a heterogeneous population in Ukraine destined for internal and irreconcilable conflict. Aside from theoretical constructs of economic optimisation, Ukraine single- handledly destroyed the economic potential of Crimea: [1] closure and deterioration of seaports, [2] closure and deterioration of industrial enterprises, [3] failure to invest in essential infrastructure such as roads, rail other methods of transportation, and [4] appropriation of public assets of any value. With exceptions of post-2014 Russian investment, Crimea today looks like Crimea in 1991. Taken together, these factors minimalize the force of law requiring a rescission of the 2014 reunification of Crimea and the Russian Federation. When the quality of human like is at stake, the dead hand of the law is marginalised.

The history of Crimea’s connection with Russia dates back over two hundred years to the time of Catherine the Great. In 1991, after the dubious gifting of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, “more than 67 percent of the population consisted of ethnic Russians, who dominated Crimean politics and culture.” In addition, “There were no Ukrainian language schools in Crimea; few ethnic Ukrainians used the Ukrainian language in everyday life, and only half claimed Ukrainian as their native tongue – an indication that their Ukrainian identity was anything but strong.” “The entire history of the peninsula from the breakup of the Soviet Union to the [2014] has been one of its residents demonstrating time and time again that they are not a natural part of Ukraine and do not feel at home there.” On 17 March 1995, the Verkhovna Rada abolished the May 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea. In 1998, Ukraine finally achieved its goal of effacing Crimean independence, with the adoption of the 23 December 1998 Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Ukraine.

Support for the reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation is found in the “economic analysis” of public international law. “[N]ational borders are not taken as given, but are the endogenous outcomes of decisions by agents who interact with each other while pursuing their goals under constraint.” “Borders are not a fixed, given feature of the geographical landscape, but human-made institutions, affected by decisions and interactions of individuals and groups, and can be analyzed as part of the growing field of political economy.” In addition, “A central role for states is the supply of public goods to their citizens: a legal and justice system, security and crime prevention, public health … and protection against catastrophic events.” Defence and security are historically the most important public goods provided by governments.

Economies of scale reduce the cost of providing public goods: bigger is cheaper. Unlike private goods, public goods do not compete in the market, allowing each citizen to consume public goods without reducing consumption by other citizens. Even when the population increases and the total costs of publicly provided services increases, the average cost still decreases because fixed costs are independent of population size. Public goods are cheaper when more taxpayers pay for them. Empirical studies demonstrate that government spending on public goods as a share of GDP decreases as a function of increasing population. Hence, “smaller countries tend to have proportionally larger governments.”

A negative correlation exists between heterogeneous populations and national borders. An artificial state is one whose “political borders do not coincide with a division of nationalities desired by the people on the ground.” Artificial states may result from splitting a single ethnic

group into two distinct states, or by incorporating a distinctly different group into an existing single state. “Consider the long-term effects of the ‘scramble for Africa’ by colonial powers. They find that partitioned ethnic groups have suffered significantly longer and more devastating civil wars.” When borders are drawn to incorporate heterogeneous populations with different languages, religion, culture, and habits, “disagreements over the fundamental characteristics of the State are likely to emerge and render reconciliation more difficult. In short, heterogeneity increases political costs.”

Since 1954, the border of Crimea was drawn by political fiat, an ultimately inexplicable gifting of the peninsula to the State of Ukraine. After the collapse of the USSR, the State of Ukraine exerted control over Crimea, contrary to the democratic preferences of Crimean residents, to vindicate its self-interests, and to exploit assets located on the peninsula. The “coerced annexation” of the Republic of Crimea raised the political costs of border redrawing, as the population of Crimea introduced a significantly high level of heterogeneity into the larger Ukrainian community. Following the logic of economic analysis, this degree of heterogeneity led exactly to what the economic model forecasts: dissension about political leadership and denial of individual preferences. Moreover, the Republic of Crimea did not receive “pubic goods” equivalent to those provided in Ukraine per se. Under Ukrainian rule, the population of Crimea was deprived of reliable provision of public goods, such as water, electricity, and gas required to heat private and commercial properties. The industrial infrastructure of Crimea was dismantled to enrich Ukraine oligarchs, raising the spectre of “rents.” Ordinary people were left to survive in conditions equivalent to those existing in the pre-industrial revolution period.

Heterogeneity costs are associated with the likelihood of civil conflict over domestic polices, including disagreement about borders, leading to separatist wars. Assume the following analytical model. People in different regions have different preferences over types of public goods. One region is dominant and the other region is subordinate. When each region chooses its preferred type of government, everyone’s utility from government services is gi = g, where “g” denotes government, “i” denotes an independent government, and “g” denotes equality between utility and preferences. In contrast, if the “dominant region” imposes a political union upon the subordinate region, then everyone in the “dominant region” gets his/her first-best utility from government services “g,” but citizens in the subordinate region obtain a lower utility gu = g– h < gi, where the parameter h > 0 captures heterogeneity costs. Symmetrically, a union where the “subordinate region” selects its preferred type of government, then everyone in the “subordinate region” receives utility g, while citizens in the dominant region receive utility g– h.

The tenuous ties between Kiev and Simferopol were unsustainable under the economic analysis model. The border of Ukraine incorporating the Republic of Crimea was artificially drawn, leading to the creation of an artificial state, subject to destabilisation due to heterogeneity costs. In addition, the two regions had preferences for different governments, demonstrably true in historical context. Since Ukraine forced its government policies upon the “subordinate region” of the Republic of Crimea, citizens in Crimea received public goods bearing the costs of “h,” and suffered a denial of their preferred type of government.

When transfers and compensation are unavailable, differences are settled by armed conflict. The probability of breakup is “π” where “π” = Ws/Ws + Wd, where “W” denotes military capacity or “weapons” and, for our purposes, “s’ denotes the “subordinate” region and “d” denotes the dominant region. If “Ws” increases relative to “Wd,” then the citizens win the conflict and withdraw from the political union formed by the dominant region. In the case of Crimea, the self-defence forces operating on the territory of Crimea enjoyed a strategic advantage due to the overthrow of the democratically elected government and the installation of a new regime, whose military forces consisted not only of traditional troops but also of paramilitary arms of diverse political groups raising problems of coordination and deployment. The Republic of Crimea also had the advantage of being a peninsula permitting the border to be sealed, preventing Kiev from using military ground transportation. When the Russian Federation intervened, the matter was settled: “Ws” increased exponentially relative to “Wd” thereby sustaining the break-up of Crimea from Ukraine. In the case of Crimea, the armed conflict was hypothetical.

The “economic analysis” model leads to the conclusion that the Republic of Crimea is best suited to governance under the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation has the capacity to provide “public goods” to Crimea without incurring substantial expense, while, at the same time, the Republic of Crimea receives public goods of a superior quality at the same or lower cost than under the sovereignty of the State of Ukraine. Second, integration of the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation reduces to zero, the costs posed by heterogeneity. The Republic of Crimea always was Russian in its language, culture, and history. By contrast, the Republic of Crimea never fit the State of Ukraine. Rather, since its independence from the USSR, Ukraine has had an ‘unstable political system,” ‘irrational and impulsive leadership’ and ‘citizens that do not enjoy stable expectations’.

Setting aside analytical models, the Republic of Crimea is better off under Russian Federation governance, as measured against Pareto optimization. The Russian Federation has invested billions of dollars into infrastructural improvements in Crimea: On 27 March 2014, the Russian Federation immediately started paying to pensions, and started to lay fibre optic cables for telephone and internet; the main road between Kerch and Simferopol stretching approximately 100 kilometres has been repaved [prior to pavement, one needed an all-terrain vehicle to navigate the potholes and uneven pavement]; also, additional routes between Kerch and Simferopol are being constructed parallel to the existing main highway. Russia also has begun construction of bridges across the Kerch Strait to connect the Russian mainland to the peninsula at costs exceeding billions of dollars; and the Russian Federation has established “seed” funds to provide financial support to start-ups.


The comprehensive factual restatement of the history of the Republic of Crimea has corrected misrepresentations of fact permeating the media and scholarly analysis of the 2014 reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation. Legal conclusions found in the extant literature rest on faulty factual premises. Public international law lacks a complete set of rules to deal with the Crimean case. Moreover, under rational choice theory, the Republic of Crimea belongs with the Russian Federation. In any event, the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol will never be returned to Ukraine. The Crimean population has expressed its preferences for government under the Russian Federation, and these preferences prime abstract legal rules.

The fully annotated version of this essay is also available.

Professor Dr. John J.A. Burke holds a PhD in International Law from the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland; a J.D. from the University of Seton Hall, School of Law; and a B.A. from Columbia College. He has held the position of Professor of Law and Chair of the Law Department at KIMEP University, Kazakhstan from 2008-2014. He now is Professor (elect) within the business school at RISEBA University (Latvia).

Svetlana Panina-Burke is an independent researcher in Kerch, Russia.

Eastern Caesaropapism: History and Critique of a Concept

To understand what “caesaropapism” means, we must compare and contrast this vague term with another, much clearer one, namely, “theocracy.” A theocratic society can be described as one ruled by, and over which “reigns,” God (1 Samuel 8:7), manifesting, directly or indirectly, His will in everything. The word itself, applied to the Jewish people, was created by Josephus Flavius. It fits both the original covenant theocracy embodied in the titanic figure of Moses, the divinely anointed kings of Israel, and the theocracy of the High Priests. The rigidity of the system was only marginally mitigated by the creation of the Levitical priesthood and the emergence of state authority: orders were always given by God, and in His name the prophets and interpreters of the Law spoke. Thomas Hobbes, followed by Spinoza, perfectly described this model: the agreement with God which this model presupposes, and the transfer of legal rights which it imposes. But while the latter declares the age of the prophets over, and warns against the slightest interference by the clergy in affairs of state, the former deduces from the example of Israel a “Christian republic,” in which the ruler “will take the same place as Abraham in his family” and will himself determine “what is the word of God and what is not.” This ruler would become by divine right the “supreme shepherd,” tending his flock and presiding over the Church in his state.

Going beyond Jewish history, these constructions and analyses have led sociologists to distinguish between several types of political organizations based on revelation and closely tied to religion: in some cases, the priests are content to lend legitimacy to secular authority (“hierocracy”); in others, the high priest or head of the community of believers ex officio also possesses supreme authority (theocracy proper); in still others, secular authority subordinates the religious sphere to a greater or lesser degree (forms of caesaropapism). This is how theocracy and caesaropapism, the model of the priest-king and the model of the king-priest, are opposed to each other.

Thus, the word “caesaropapism” stigmatized any “secular” sovereign who claimed to be a pope. The term itself has a sociological character, but it was used with an obvious polemical purpose, within the framework of a general classification that contrasted the theocratic or caesaropapist East with the West, where the independence of the “two powers” was perceived as dogma: in the first case there is confusion; in the second—distinction. Justus Henning Böhmer (1674-1749), professor at the University of Halle, in his textbook on Protestant ecclesiastical law (Jus ecclesiasticum protestantium), devoted an entire passage to the two main types of excesses of power in the religious sphere: “Papo-caesaria” and “Caesaro-papia.” In this way he sought, on behalf of the Reformed Church, to equate and denounce both the pope, who appropriated political power, and secular rulers dealing with religious problems, as Justinian had already done. Of the two opposed terms, only the second term was successful: it was often used in the second half of the nineteenth century, though not so much as a theoretical concept but to stigmatize Byzantium and its Orthodox successors: the “schisma” between the Christian East and the Christian West was said to have been caused by “Constantinian” or “Justinian” interference in matters of faith.

Such an approach turned the distinction between secular and spiritual authority into a complete incompatibility between the two. The vague notion of “caesaropapism” was reduced above all to a murderous-sounding word, which, however, could not be mollified by introducing a more genial definition; it was therefore impossible to raise the meaning of the word beyond the various currents of thought that gave it the derogatory character that has survived to this day. Thus, a brief review of historiography must precede any analysis of the essence of the problem.

To understand the essence of our problem and the ways in which it developed, it is necessary to mention briefly the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, that struggle of ideas which gave rise to Christian historiography as a reaction to critical reflections on the original truth of Christendom before its immersion in history.

Protestants instinctively disassociated themselves from all historical legitimacy, from that evolution which separated the clergy from all “other Christians, from that tradition which had established the Church in power. In his treatises On the Freedom of a Christian (1520) and On Secular Authority (1523) Luther paradoxizes the difference between the spiritual and the secular, starting from the Augustinian theory of the “two cities”: being part of both the spiritual and the secular cities, the Christian, according to Luther, is at the same time both absolutely free and absolutely enslaved. God created these two cities because only a small minority of true Christians belong to His city, while the vast majority need the “worldly sword” and have to submit to it, according to the covenant of Paul (Rom. 13:1: ” for there is no authority except from God”) and Peter (1 Peter 2:13: “accept the authority of every human institution”). But although worldly princes have their authority from God and although they themselves are Christians, they have no right to claim to “rule as a Christian” and in accordance with the Gospel. “The Christian kingdom cannot extend to the whole world, not even to one single country.” Between religion, understood primarily personally, and State, understood primarily in a repressive way, there can be no mutual accommodation; Luther sneers at those secular rulers who “arrogate to themselves the right to sit on God’s throne, dispose of conscience and faith, and… bring the Holy Spirit to the school pews,” just as he scoffs at popes and bishops “who become secular princes” and claim to be endowed with “authority” and not merely “office.” However, this radical separation of secular and spiritual does not lead to the recognition of the two powers, “since all Christians truly belong to the body of the Church,” and there is no reason to deny secular rulers “the title of priest and bishop.” It was not been easy to abide by these principles, and sometimes turned Lutheranism into a kind of caesaropapism (and Calvinism a kind of theocracy). But this new approach to “religion” undoubtedly carried with it the leaven which began the fermentation process by which the question of the origins of the Christian empire was fundamentally reconsidered in the 19th century.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) made no determination on this question, but in proclaiming the Church to be the mediator between Christians and God, and giving sacred tradition the same weight as sacred Scripture, this Council brought together what Luther tried to divide. Both at the Council and around it, attempts were made to bring the two powers together rather than to separate them. The policy of the concordat was intended to find a difficult compromise between religious universalism and national churches. The Jesuits, on the other hand, supported the thesis of the “indirect power” of the pope in political affairs. And the justification they found, of course, in history. In thirteen volumes. of the Croatian Lutheran Matthias Vlacic (or Flacius Illyricus) and the Magdeburg “Centuriators” (1559-1575), who boldly called Pope Gregory VII a monster and thereby sowed confusion in the Catholic milieu; Caesar Baronius gave a belated response in twelve volumes of his Annales ecclesiastici (1588-1607). In this history of Christianity loomed the central character—Constantine the Great. Baronius looked upon him through the eyes of his apologist Eusebius of Caesarea, but also took into account orthodox and clerical corrections to the legend, according to which the first Christian emperor was baptized in Rome by Pope Sylvester, and that the popes’ secular authority and their royal prerogatives date back to Constantine’s imperial grant. It is not surprising that the volumes of the Annales, which were devoted successively to secular rulers and to Catholic pontiffs, were warmly received in the Orthodox world, and subjected only to a slight revision by the Russian hierarchs.

The union of secular and ecclesiastical authorities was as little questioned in Catholic Europe as in Eastern Christianity, and Constantine was a symbol of this union. In 1630, Jean Morin, priest of the Oratory, wrote his Histoire de la délivrance de l’Église chrétienne par l’empereur Constantin, et de la grandeur et souveraineté temporelle donnée a l’Église romaine par les rois de France (History of the Liberation of the Christian Church by the Emperor Constantine, and of the Temporal Sovereignty Granted to the Roman Church by the Kings of France), in which he rebutted Baronius, and disputed the fact of Roman baptism and the reality of Constantine’s gift—but all this only in order to claim that the emperor had been converted and had seen the heavenly cross in France, that he had been catechized under French bishops, and that it was the French kings who are the only initiators of the greatness and temporal power of the Holy See.

Ultramontanism and Gallicanism had different goals, but followed almost the same line of in interpreting the beginnings of the Christian Empire. It would take a long time before the Lutheran movement seriously threatened the Constantinian myth; which happened when criticism of the very foundations of “political Christianity” led, in Protestant countries, to the condemnation of caesaropapism. The sharp-eyed detective Santo Mazzarino noticed that a certain Johann Christian Hesse defended at Jena. in 1713. a thesis with a very telling subtitle: “On the Difference between True Christianity and Political Christianity.” And that’s where it all began. From then on, Constantine always served as a scarecrow. He, they say, chose Christianity ex rationis politicis, “for political reasons,” and made it serve the interests that he considered to be his own.

Next the baton was taken up in a book by Jacob Burckhardt, who in 1853 [Die Zeit Constantins des Grossen] rendered judgment on this false Christianity in the service of power; under his pen Constantine’s “psychological portrait” came out even harsher. The historian reproached the emperor for insidiousness and shamelessness, and Eusebius for concealing the truth. As a Western humanist and typical Protestant, Burckhardt believed that between religion and power there could be nothing but a constant friction; he rejected all forms of state Christianity and wrote against it; he was obviously antipathetic to what he called “Byzantinismus” [“Byzantinism”] which was soon to be called “Caesaropapismus.” He likened it to Islam, thereby expelling it from Europe. Historical interpretation played on all possible moral oppositions: between sincerity and opportunism, between religion and politics, between Church and State, and, in the end, between West and East.

In the same manner was the later shift from a moral critique of “political Christianity” to a more fundamental critique of “political theology.” To describe and eradicate this perversion was the task of Erik Peterson in in his brilliant essay, “Monotheism as a Political Problem,” which he published in Leipzig in 1935, under the conditions of Nazi Germany. He wrote about the dangers of monolithic and charismatic power. The reader immediately grasped the allusions that the author himself later revealed in 1947, well after the disaster. Constantine receded into the background and the proscenium was now occupied by Eusebius of Caesarea: the theologian, historian and panegyrist was now turned into a dangerous ideologue (and was disqualified as such), who wanted to make Christianity a continuation of Alexandrian Hellenistic-Judean philosophy and integrate it into Roman history. The notion of divine monarchy as developed by the Arian Eusebius and refuted by trinitarian dogma, was to be interpreted not as a theological reaction to the issue of deity, but as a political reaction to the threat of the demise of the imperium romanum. This is why the delusion of Eusebius is revealing, which is why his rejection of the proclamation of God as simultaneously one and threefold, which took the religion of Christ beyond the boundaries of Judaism, was so liberating. By so doing, it was forbidden to transfer to secular power and to the secular world models of Christian monarchy and “peace,” which could not be other than in the Godhead.

The false eschatology of Eusebius, who exaggerated the importance of the Empire in salvation history, Peterson contrasted with the distinction of the “two cities.” His preference is made all the more evident by the fact that he dedicated his book to the Blessed Augustine. He thus sketched the contradiction, which others would later develop with far less subtlety, between the East, secretly Arian and totalitarian—and the West, which had managed to get rid of political theology brought on by monotheism, and thereby destroyed all grounds for the contamination of the religious with the political.

Erik Peterson was neither the first nor the last in the line of those who made the connection between Arian “subordinatism” and the ideal of a monarch who, like the Byzantine emperor, receives directly from God both the anointing and the covenant to lead His people to salvation. But Peterson was the only one who, departing from this historical perception of caesaropapism, clearly dating back to the fourth century, made a general condemnation of any political speculation based on Christian theology. In 1969-1970 he was critiqued by Karl Schmitt whose text, both confusing and harsh, is not very convincing in which he argues about history and which is more interesting when he demands the sociologist’s right to investigate the process of secularization of Christian concepts and models.

Many historians, whether they have read the 1935 essay or not, assimilated the same perspective and turned Eusebius, whose Arianism was, we note, condemned, into the inspirer and mouthpiece of “Byzantinism,” i.e., caesaropapism; and in so doing they take at face value the opposite myth of the cynic Constantine and contrast the Western “mentality” to the Eastern one. Thus, it seems reasonable to speak of a sequence, from the Reformation to Burckhardt and Peterson (although the latter converted to Catholicism). In this perspective, the concept of caesaropapism is built on a critique of all religious authority; the debunking of “political Christianity” and the defeat of any “political theology.” At the same time. it is difficult to name beyond the university walls the source of this historiographic direction (distinctly French, sometimes tinged lightly with Catholic anticlericalism) that has arrived at a similar result, from an analysis of “modernity. No doubt, it took as its starting point the last chapter of Fustel de Coulanges’s La cité antique (The Ancient City) written in 1864, which set out to demonstrate how Christianity had “changed the conditions of government” and “marked the end of ancient society.” The historian insisted on the universality of the religious idea, which severed the connection of cults to family and polis, as well as the interiorization of faith and prayer which released the individual and allowed him to realize his freedom. What had been the privilege of a tiny elite of Stoic philosophers—the distinction between “private virtues and public virtues”—became the domain of all mankind. [Christianity] preaches that there is nothing in common between state and religion; it separates what throughout antiquity has been mixed. It must be observed, however, that for three centuries the new religion lived absolutely outside the limits of any activity of the state, able to do without its patronage and even to struggle against it—these three centuries dug a chasm between the domain of government and the domain of religion.

Since the memories of this glorious era cannot fade away—the distinction has become an indisputable truth—which even the efforts of some of the clergy cannot shake. History thereby recognizes a certain role in the separation of secular and clerical powers, the function of a certain inhibition is attributed to the church hierarchy, but as a whole is explained by the first principles of Christianity which laid a natural, non-religious foundation for law, for property and for the family; these principles are what has drawn the boundary “which separates ancient politics” from “from the politics of modernity.” With a fervor that led to accusations of his “clericalism,” Fustel de Coulanges briefly jumped through the centuries, leaving others to investigate in detail the phenomenon of caesaropapism, that remnant of antique paganism in the Eastern Christian Empire, the transformation of which was slow and incomplete.

These few pages from La cité antique had nearly the same impact in France as Burckhardt’s book had had in Germanic countries. They have been quoted in many articles and studies on the relations of Church and State. The teacher’s ideas were picked up and developed especially by one of his pupils, Amédée Gasquet, in 1879, in his doctoral dissertation, De l’autorité impériale en matière religieuse à Byzance (On the Power of the Emperor in Religious Matters in Byzantium), which he dedicated to “Academician Mr. Fustel de Coulanges.” The scientific apparatus of this dissertation is somewhat weak; but the mode of expression is sustained in the spirit of academic propriety—the author carefully avoids using the term “caesaropapism.” In any case, the intent of the work is quite clear—”ancient societies,” explains Gasquet, referring to La cité antique, which by that time had already gone through five or six editions, “did not know the division between political and religious power.” The Christian emperors of Byzantium, without renouncing any of the prerogatives of their pagan predecessors, claimed a dominant position not only in the secular but also in the ecclesiastical community; and in so doing they flaunted the title priest-king, and claimed holiness just as the pagan emperors had made the claim to apotheosis. Having embraced Christianity, they were confident that they could reform it at their own whim and adapt to their imagination “the immutable text approved by the Great Councils.” But Rome staged against the Caesars a grandiose revolution, which consisted in the separation of powers; “the pope, the vicar of Christ, deprived the imperial majesty of that power which did not belong to the title.” In the midst of this constant struggle and upheavals caused by the “caprices of the eastern rulers,” “the center of the universal church shifted from Constantinople to Rome.” The contradictions were aggravated. The pope “as a result of a bold usurpation,” began to distribute crowns in the West to those loyal to him. Thus, a political schism took place, soon followed by a religious one. Hence came the modern world, divided into those who remained faithful to the Byzantine tradition, and those who accepted the separation of powers and the supremacy of the spiritual over the secular. This division, boldly carried to its extreme consequences, was the principle which “awakened the Western nations, which grew, dwindling in barbarism.”

Consecration does not necessarily imply assent and patronage, and there is no guarantee that some of Amédée Gasquet’s assertions would have been fully endorsed by Fustel de Coulanges. But it is well to see how a generally fair idea of the inherent distinction between the spiritual and the temporal in Christianity could give rise to the false idea that this was a distinction between “two powers;” and how the image of the modern world, born of such a division, prompts one to declare “caesaropapism” a pagan legacy, preserved in the stagnant East, from which the liberated West quickly separated itself. The term, conciliatory or provocative, is not the least important. The image of an emperor scarcely washed of his paganism and all too used to playing the pontifex maximus runs through virtually all subsequent historiography. To pay tribute to Peterson, it is usually added that the ideology of the Hellenistic king, skillfully applied by the heretic Eusebius of Caesarea to a Christian monarch, served as a mediator and gave an appearance of new religious legitimacy to the successors of Augustus. But the conclusion, whether declared or implied, is always the same: Constantine’s conversion did not lead to a profound Christianization of the Empire; where imperial tradition survived, namely in the East, power remained secretly pagan. This is what polemical literature has always tried to convince the reader of, whether in the days of iconoclasm or the Union of the Churches, to cast as tyrants, persecutors and Antichrists this or that Byzantine emperor, who donned his religious role and tried to uproot the remnants of paganism from the Church.

The more “Romanesque” tradition in historiography makes some important adjustments to this scheme. The abbot Luigi Sturzo, in his book widely circulated in France, takes as his point of departure “the novelty of Christianity in comparison with other religions;” that Christianity had “severed any binding connection between religion, on the one hand, and family, tribe, nation or empire on the other, and also established a personal basis for these connections.” “For the Christian,” he continues, “there was an inherent dualism between the life of the spirit—and the worldly life, the religious and supra-worldly tasks of the Church—and the earthly, natural interests of the State.” But If unification is always harmful, the diarchy, “sealed in facts,” corresponded not so much to the separation of powers, but to their mutual accommodation. “From the Edict of Constantine and up to the formation of the Carolingian Empire, two types of religious and political diarchy developed: the Byzantine Caesaropapist and the organizing Latin.” The first represented “a political-religious system in which the power of the State became for the Church an effective, normal and centralizing power, though external to it; a system in which the Church participated in the exercise of certain worldly power functions; and in a direct form, though not independently.” Such was the position of the Eastern Church after Constantine, which led to a loss of autonomy, to subordination to the State, to the preservation of the economic and political interests of the secular elite and the privileged caste of clerics. In contrast, in the “Latin organizational diarchy,” “the Church, while constantly calling on the aid of the civil authorities and constantly ceding to the rulers some powers, some opportunities and some privileges within the ecclesiastical body, nevertheless almost always protested against any real dependence on them and, when necessary, insisted on its independence.” The author goes on to analyze in detail the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the development of national Christian churches, and the politics of the “concordat.” Of course, he fails to draw a line down the centuries between the mixing of powers inherited from antiquity and their differentiation as an innovation of Christianity. However, he draws a distinction between the Eastern model (modern rather than medieval)—and the Western model, which, a better knowledge of the subject, permits him to present in a more nuanced way.

The nuances give way to polemics in literature which more openly declares its confessional character; one of its most recent representatives is Fr. Martin Jugie a great connoisseur of the East, but also a great persecutor of schismatics: “Caesaropapism, as the term itself shows,” he writes, “means a State where civil power, Caesar, substitutes himself for the pope in exercising supreme power over the Church; this is—a totalitarian state, arrogating to itself absolute power both over the mundane and over the sacred, both over the earth and above, practically ignoring the separation of civil and spiritual powers, and at the least subordinating the latter to the former.” The roots of this evil stretch back to the pagan past: “The pagan empire was Caesaropapist in the full sense of the word. It was unfamiliar with the distinction between the two powers. The pagan emperor, who was called summus pontifex, possessed both the fullness of the priesthood and the fullness of authority over the clergy and over sacred matters. This absolute caesaropapism is incompatible with the Christian religion, in which we find a hierarchy endowed with special liturgical powers inaccessible to the laity… The head of the Christian State cannot be analogous to the Roman Pope, for he never had the authority of an ecclesiastical person. He can only usurp the role of the pope in the Catholic Church.” Such invasions have occurred frequently. “But it was in the East that caesaropapism was given a green light; it happened as early as the fourth century, the day after Constantine declared himself the patron of the Christian religion…. The pernicious example set by the first Christian emperor was followed by his successors, especially those who, after the division of the empire into two halves, ruled the eastern part… It is true that imperial caesaropapism often served the interests of the Church… But in terms of the unity of the Church it has had disastrous consequences: such are the nationalization of the Church, the enslavement of the clergy, the muted or open hostility to the popes… Unlike the Western Church, which, in spite of temporary abuses, found in the popes staunch defenders of its independence, the Byzantine Church had very few such fighters, although they were not absent altogether. On the whole, the eastern episcopate showed itself very obedient to dogmatic antagonisms and political heresies of their emperors.” Here we have a really well-stuffed bag of prejudices that, under the influence of the spirit of ecumenism and simple historical objectivity, are somewhat out of fashion and no longer in vogue, even in clerical circles.

The spread of the term “caesaropapism” is of course on the conscience of Roman Catholicism, but reformist Russian Orthodoxy also had a hand in this. In the last decades of the 19th century, Vladimir Solovyov debunked tsarist absolutism and its claims that the Eastern Church “itself gave up its rights” to hand them over to the State. He especially blamed the Syriac Orthodox Church for having become “a national church” and therefore losing the right to represent Christ, to whom all authority on earth and in heaven belonged. “In all countries, the church is relegated to the position of a national church,” he wrote, “and the secular government (whether autocratic or constitutional) enjoys the absolute fullness of all power; the ecclesiastical institutions appear exclusively as a special ministry, dependent on the general state administration. Here again it was pointed to Byzantium, which in the ninth century (in other words, during the time of Photius) claimed to be the center of the universal Church, but in reality gave the impetus to the deviation to nationalism.” Even closer to the present day, Cyril Toumanoff put across the same point of view—according to him the “Byzantine evil” consisted in the absence of a clear distinction between the spiritual and the temporal, in the predominance of the latter over the former, and in “Caesar taking responsibility for divine matters.” In this perspective, he described Russia as a “provincialized and barbarized Byzantium,” noting in passing the fusion of caesaropapism “à la Rousse,” with Protestant ideology, which seemed important to him. This time the problem shifted; and if we are still talking about pagan survivals in the Constantine Empire, now the birth of caesaropapism was attributed to a “later time,” the period of schism and the explosion of “Greek” nationalism, as opposed to Christian universalism.

In response to these many attacks, the wounded “Orientals,” whose beliefs and whose concern for truth had been questioned, attempted to offer resistance. It was not too difficult for them to introduce significant nuances to this black picture of retrograde “Byzantinism,” and to show that “caesaropapism” was a flawed word, an anachronism, incorrectly projecting to the East the Western notion of the papacy, and to the Middle Ages—the concept of separation of powers—applicable only to the New Age. Byzantium never denied the distinction between temporal and the spiritual, never officially allowed that the emperor could be a priest; those autocrats who ventured to suggest such a thing were regarded as heretics, and those who encroached on ecclesiastical rights (or, worse still, on ecclesiastical wealth) were branded as sacrilegious. So goes the rebuttal. But historians have also tried to make a distinction. They said, the interventions of the Empire in the affairs of the Church should not to be lumped together: some of them were permissible (the right of the emperor to summon and preside at councils; the promulgation of laws and canons; the maintenance and modification of the church hierarchy); others were reprehensible (the appointment of bishops; the formulation of the creed).

The global disapproval of Byzantine practice was casuistically dissected thus: The Byzantine emperor did not go beyond his powers if he was content to enforce canons or conciliar decisions; he went only a little beyond these limits when, on his own initiative, he passed laws concerning the Church, if they were in accordance with her own wishes (as Justinian and Leo VI had done in their Novels); the emperor was allowed a harmless violation when he imposed his personal preferences on the Church with her consent—but when he did the same not only without consultation, but sometimes with a minority of bishops against their majority, especially in matters of faith, then this was a flagrant abuse. Only the last two cases were attacks on the independence of the Church—the first two, although based on the same legal principle, at least respected the rules of the game.

Theologians or canonists have always been less tolerant than historians—but they oppose actual interference with a legal division written in the canons and constantly commemorated. They sought and found those responsible for the perversion: the authoritarianism of Constantius II (so as not to offend the inviolable Constantine); the Justinian mania for lawmaking; the “imperial heresy” of the iconoclasts, or the “Scholia” of Balsamon—all of which flirted with the concept of a quasi-priest emperor. Interpretation of canonical heritage, given at the end of the 12th century and taken up by Matthew Blastares, absorbed this stable tradition without any rethinking. Even though there was a deviation, the position of the Eastern Church was not (or was not always) conciliatory; it had to fight the “paganism” that persisted in the imperial ideology. How late it remained there is evidenced by titles like “epistemonarch” or “intercessor.”

At any rate, the word “caesaropapism” is annoying. It sounds like a slap in the face. It is attributed to the “Latins,” without realizing that the physical evidence for the accusation was fabricated throughout the Byzantine Middle Ages. Given the charge of Eastern caesaropapism, an accusation of Western “Papotsarism” is made. On the whole, this is a weak objection: it drags one into a polemic—when what is required is an analysis of the mechanisms, as suggested in our brief historiographical review.

In any case, of course, Byzantium itself is “not without sin;” but of it was made a scapegoat. In the artificially constructed concept of caesaropapism is a mix of contradictory elements. At its inception, Roman fundamentalism entered into a strange alliance with the spirit of the Reformation; the radical distinction between the spiritual and the temporal, which was supposed to purge religion from politics, curiously led to the recognition of the “authority” of the clerics; the founder of the Christian empire was blamed for lack of secular ideals. It is clear that Europe cannot understand medieval Byzantium— this is not allowed by European history, geography and culture.

Without going into detail, let us recall a few obvious truths. The opposition or dialogue between “Church and State” is possible only for a secular power, more or less irreligious and confined to the framework of a single state, and for the Church, identified with its clergy. This opposition reveals the originality of the Christian Empire: its universality (at least theoretically), its place (as a political structure, as a society, and as a historical phenomenon) in the divine government, centered on it, with all its ruptures, with all its reversals, with its past and especially with its completion. The rupture? And what else can one call the Incarnation of Christ, by which the coming of the age of Grace was heralded in the midst of a political regime pleasing to God—for the Empire of Augustus was chosen as the cradle for the new religion. Return? What else was the curious projection of the Jewish past onto the Christian present, when Byzantium and its emperors lived as if on two levels, the level of Old Testament models, read as “images” from the Christian future, and the level of Christian history, which was nothing more than the realization of these “images.” Completion? This is a programmed end, as announced by Daniel and all the Apocalypses, because of it. Christian time, since the reign of Constantine, has become a “countdown.” Within this timeframe, empire is presented as a setting, and the emperor as the principal actor. Notions of “this age,” “the State,” or “worldly power” are useful for delineating the domain of imperial institutions in contrast to the institutionalized Church, handed over to the cares of the clerics. But these same concepts ignore the aforementioned alchemical transformation of time, this sacred history, within which the emperor was something like a High Priest. Back in 1393, Patriarch Anthony IV of Constantinople reminded Prince Vasily of Moscow about the role of emperors in the formation of Orthodoxy, about the unity of the empire and the Church. The idea of two separate powers is not prerogative; but this is where it took the “modern” form, the form of the political revolution that accompanied the separation, later the collapse, of the empire in the fourth and fifth centuries.

In the East, the reaction was neither so rapid nor so unequivocal. The dispute was accompanied inexorably by vestiges of messianism and the expectation of an eschatological denouement. Although the emperors seldom dared to publicly proclaim their priesthood “according to the order of Melchizedek,” they still believed in their special mission: to dispose of that double heritage, Davidic and Levitical, which Christ declared to be His, having come into the world in the flesh, during the first “advent,” but which He will enter into possession of, having finally established His kingdom, when the end of the world, called the second “coming,” will soon come. The royal priesthood in Byzantium was a continuation of the messianic spirit during that interval between the two “comings” which exactly corresponds to the period of the Christian Empire.

Needless to say, in this matter (as in all others), history does not decide who is right and who is wrong. It only allows us to understand past justifications and measure the bias that has been created to date by any history that has become a tradition, and then any tradition that has become an ideology. The West, for which Judaism played almost no role as the main standard and which grew up on the ruins of the Empire, made valor out of necessity. The West underestimated and dismantled that majestic building, which was the result of the meeting of two traditions, Roman and Jewish. It divided the “authorities” in order to create a spiritual power in the backyard of modern states, which was often nothing more than a powerless theocracy. As for the East, it prolonged that grandiose and fruitless dream which was already illusory in the Empire of the Second Rome, a dream which served as an alibi for the retrograde autocracy in the Russian Empire of the Third Rome and which in today’s world often appears under the ugly mask of nationalism. The political aporia “priest and king,” “priest or king” is undoubtedly one of the basic problems of mankind, and its solutions in history grow out of each other in the process of mutual adaptation of cultures.

In conclusion, let us give the floor to Dostoevsky. In one of the first chapters of The Brothers Karamazov, the most Byzantine of his novels, Dostoyevsky sets forth, in the form of a paradox, the problem we have been discussing here. Ivan Karamazov, an intellectual revolutionary and atheist, has written a treatise on church tribunals in which he denies the principle of separation of Church and State. He is questioned about this by the participants in the conversation, who embody the entire spectrum of opinion: Miusov, a secular man, landowner, Westerner, and skeptic; Father Paissy, a worthy representative of Orthodoxy; and an elder who speaks his heart. Ivan justifies his position by explaining that the mixing of Church and State, intolerable in itself, will always exist because there can be no normal relationship between them, “because lies lie at the very heart of the matter.” Instead of asking about the place of the Church in the State, we should instead ask how the Church is to be identified with the State in order to establish the kingdom of God on earth. When the Roman Empire became Christian, it naturally included the Church; but the Church, in order not to renounce its principles, must in turn seek ways of gaining control over the State.

Miusov observes that this is a trivial utopia, “something like socialism.” The elder hesitates for another reason: he fears that in a world where law and love will merge, the criminal will no longer have the right to mercy, as he believes there is no such right in “Lutheran countries” and in Rome, where the Church has proclaimed itself the State; and yet he foresees the distant day when the Church will revive. “What is this really about,” exclaimed Miusov, as if suddenly bursting out, “is the State being eliminated from the earth, and the Church being elevated to the degree of a State. It’s not just ultramontane, it’s arch-ultramontane! This was not even imagined by Pope Gregory VII! Quite the opposite of what you mean!—Father Paissy said sternly.—It is not the Church that turns into a State, understand that. That’s Rome and its dream; that’s the third devil’s temptation! On the contrary, the State converts to the Church, ascends to the Church and becomes the Church in all the earth, which is quite the opposite of both Ultramontaneism and Rome and your interpretation, and is only the great destiny of Orthodoxy on earth. From the East the star shall shine forth” (The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1, Book 2, Chapter 5).

Such debates were waged in Russia in the 1870s-1880s. They somewhat confused the concepts of theocracy and caesaropapism. Here the ideological costs of the church-state may have been anticipated, but they were generally found to be more consistent with the spirit of Orthodoxy than the spiritual betrayal the church-state seemed to represent. The one point on which all agreed was the recognition that the fundamental separation of the two powers rested on a lie.

Gilbert Dagron (1932-2015) was a foremost scholar of Byzantine history, whose best-known work is Emperor and Priest: The Imperial Office in Byzantium.

Featured: Double-headed Eagle, anonymous, from Filenka, ca. 1740s.

The Volhynia Massacre

Of all the volatile issues emanating from Ukraine’s participation in the Second World War, perhaps the most debated has been Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s (UPA) conflict with the Poles, which has been described by Yale historian Timothy Snyder as one of the earliest examples of ethnic cleansing in the 20th century. A landmark of sorts was reached in 2003, the 60th anniversary of the attempted elimination of the Polish population in Volhynia region, when scholars, writers, and journalists on both sides of the border discussed the matter openly, albeit without reaching any firm conclusions. On the level of government politicians, the then opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, made some conciliatory remarks to the Poles concerning responsibility for past events. The Ukrainian response at the grassroots level, from those generally sympathetic to the UPA at least, was that there were similar atrocities on both sides, as evidenced by the enforced deportations of populations from both sides of the border and the deliberate targeting of Ukrainian civilians in Operation Vistula.

The discussion differs from the previous ones that have been analyzed in that it has taken on an international hue, with Ukrainians, for the most part, defending the actions of the insurgents against criticism from outsiders. However, while Soviet propaganda prevailed, the Polish question left the UPA vulnerable to attacks from the official media as well. Because of the controversial nature of these events it is logical to reflect first on the existing English versions of the events that are based on careful archival research.

Snyder has noted that in 1939, the Polish population constituted about 16% of the overall population of Volhynia (Volyn and Rivne oblasts), and by 1943 it had decreased to about 8%. He maintains that the UPA mounted a campaign to identify the Volhynian Poles and the Polish government with the occupation regimes of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. He believes that the fury of the actions against the Polish population was the reason for the Polish retaliation against Ukrainians—reflected, for example, in Operation Vistula. They then provided the UPA with an excuse for introducing what Snyder calls “ethnic cleansing” in the territories of Halychyna to the south. However, Poles there were more numerous and better able to defend themselves.

In a related article, Snyder delves into the topic in more detail. In his view, the brutal operations of the Germans against Volhynian Jews provided training for many of the future UPA members for the 1943 actions against Poles. Ukrainians became familiar with violent death on a mass scale, and those who took part in German operations as auxiliary forces subsequently became the main recruits for the creation of the UPA in Volhynia by the OUN-B. The decision to take the latter action was taken following the German defeat at Stalingrad, when in April 1943 OUN SD (Ukrainian Nationalist Organization) leader Mykola Lebed’ proposed to eliminate the entire Polish population in the area of the UPA forces.

Poles were also under intense pressure from Soviet Partisans. Snyder describes members of the OUN-B security forces as extremists and fanatics, with an implacable hatred of people they considered to be enemies of the nation. Thus the Ukrainian political scene in Volhynia came under the domination of “immature and angry men” led by the 33-year-old Lebed’ and practically the entire Ukrainian youth entered the ranks of the UPA (in part, the OUN-B achieved full membership by threatening to kill all those who remained in the service of the Germans). By removing the Poles, they could prevent any possibility of a return to Polish rule in this territory of northwestern Ukraine, and up to 60,000 Poles, mainly civilians, fell victim to this orgy of violence.

Wiktor Poliszczuk’s work is an indictment of the OUN and UPA, and who stresses that, in the spring of 1943, Mykola Lebed’, the head of the OUN-B Provid, along with Shukhevych, carried out the proclamation of the First Congress of the OUN by massacring the Polish civilian population of Volhynia. Up to that time, the deaths of Poles at the hands of Ukrainians had been somewhat random and a result of personal animosities. He notes that in this period, the OUN-B demanded of the Ukrainian police still in the service of the Germans that they flee to the forests taking their weapons with them. Former members of the Schutzmannschaften Battalion 201 arrived in Volhynia from Belarus, having completed the brutal pacification of Belarusian villages on behalf of the Germans. These men, he adds, in a similar vein to Snyder’s account, had experience with the elimination of the Jewish population and were now to make up the foundation of the military forces of the OUN-B, along with the Security Service run by Lebed’. Most of the latter forces were made up of Ukrainians from Halychyna.

Using the basis of the First OUN Congress and the Second OUN Conference, it was Lebed’ who provided the instruction to the troops to undertake the systematic extermination of the Polish population of Volhynia. The deaths ran into the tens of thousands, he writes. Members of the Mel’nyk wing of the OUN, where present, were coerced into the same activity. The picture portrayed is one of ruthless ethnic cleansing led by the nationalist security units that had received training at the German political school in Zakopane in 1939–40…. all those dealing with the OUN-UPA as warriors for an independent Ukraine (particularly those who allege that the two organizations had taken on a more moderate and democratic complexion by 1943), have to come to terms with the events of Volhynia, which appear to contradict such an assessment.

David R. Marples is a Distinguished University Professor of Russian and East European History, University of Alberta. He is the author of sixteen single-authored books, including Understanding Ukraine and Belarus (2020), and Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine (2008), from which this passage is excerpted.

The Return of the Iron Curtain

The United States extols the virtues of competition, but hates having competitors. It also hates the idea of a multipolar world. The United States emerged from World War II as the great victor, and its entire foreign policy for ages has been to thwart the emergence of rival powers that might threaten its hegemony. Europe having already been neutralized and vassalized, they are left with China and Russia, which they seek to weaken by all means.

In order to do this, they have a first-rate tool at their disposal with the NATO bases. NATO, which should have disappeared at the same time as the Warsaw Pact, has today become the “global NATO;” that is to say, an international police force, charged with protecting American interests all over the world, while exercising on its allies what General De Gaulle called its “heavy tutelage.”

By bringing the former Eastern Bloc countries into NATO, the United States sought to challenge and encircle Russia. High-ranking American political scientists, such as Henry Kissinger, John J. Mearsheimer, George Kennan, Paul Nitze, Robert McNamara and many others had already warned in the 1990s of the dramatic consequences of NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders, which Kennan called a “fateful mistake.” The Americans have never ceased to assert that Ukraine should also join NATO.

In The Grand Chessboard (1997), Zbigniew Brzezinski explained why: “America must absolutely seize Ukraine, because Ukraine is the pivot of Russian power in Europe. Once Ukraine is separated from Russia, Russia will no longer be a threat.”

The Least Concealed Coup d’état in History

Since Montesquieu, we know that there are those who start wars and those who make them inevitable. The United States and NATO have done everything to make war unavoidable. A war that did not start in February 2022, but in 2014, since 14,000 people were already dead in Donbass when the Russian army intervened.

The coup of February 22, 2014, the so-called Euro-Maidan, prepared, organized and financed by the United States (to the tune of 5 billion dollars)—”the least concealed coup in history,” said the American political scientist George Friedman—was not intended to make Ukraine more democratic, but to make it more Western; that is to say anti-Russian. It allowed the removal of President Yanukovych, legitimately elected in 2010, and to bring to power a team of pro-Westerners whose first legislative act was the abolition of the Russian language as an official language.

In 2019, they were succeeded by a puppet government, corrupt to the core, largely dominated by the underworld and headed by Volodymyr Zelensky, a former show business king. The Americans, during all this time, never ceased to threaten, ignore and humiliate Russia.

True to the Monroe Doctrine, the Americans have never allowed foreign intervention in their sphere of influence, while constantly intervening in those of others. Since the Cuba affair in 1962, it is well known that no American president would accept that Russian rockets be deployed in Canada or Mexico. Why should Putin accept that American rockets be deployed in Poland and at the gates of Russia?

Ukraine’s integration into NATO was an existential threat to the Russian Federation. In other words, a red line that must not be crossed. The West crossed it, leaving Vladimir Putin no choice but to resort to military action to satisfy demands that could never be met by political or diplomatic means. This is what happened on February 24.

The Russian People: The New Pariahs

Putin, who has no intention of recreating the old USSR (which in 2010 even more Ukrainians than Russians regretted: 62% against 45%) knows on the other hand that a country’s security depends largely on the notion of strategic depth, which implies a buffer state. Cutting short a new Ukrainian offensive to retake the Donbass by force, which was planned for late winter, Russia’s “special military operation” had three immediate causes: NATO’s willingness to push right up to Russia’s doorstep; the Kiev government’s stubborn refusal to implement the Minsk agreements of September 2014 and February 2015, which provided for both Ukraine’s territorial integrity and Donbass’ autonomy; and the continued atrocities against the Russian-speaking civilian populations of Donbass.

The Americans, who of course never bombed civilians (Hiroshima), nor attacked a sovereign country (Iraq), nor illegally crossed a sovereign’s country’s borders (Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia), and even less bombed a European capital (Belgrade), reacted according to the usual Anglo-Saxon tactics of sanctions and embargo (which are the modern version of the blockade) and of moral disqualification, accusatory inversion, the dumbing down of public opinion by emotional propaganda, media blitzing and the criminalization of the enemy (Putin mad dictator, paranoid war criminal, new Hitler, bloodthirsty butcher, etc. ). This tactic makes it impossible to return to peace through a negotiated settlement of the conflict, since one does not negotiate with a “criminal” or a “madman.”

In the manner of Cancel Culture, the prevailing Russophobia now discredits everything that is Russian, from Dostoyevsky to Solzhenitsyn, through Gagarin, all victims of the same reductio ad Putinum. Tennis players, musicians, disabled people and even Russian cats are excluded from shows, museums or competitions.

The aim is to turn the Russian people into a new pariah. Hate speech, once decried, is now even allowed on social networks, if it is anti-Russian speech.

The objective is clear. If Russia cannot be vaporized, it is a question of putting it in the dock of nations, of stigmatizing it for eternity, of cutting it off definitively from Germany, France and Western Europe, thanks to a cordon sanitaire that would isolate it from the rest of the world. From this point of view, it is in the interest of the Americans to ensure that the war lasts as long as possible. In Washington, we are ready to fight to the last Ukrainian. In 1956, the Budapest insurgents had no such support.

A New Iron Curtain

It is obviously impossible to say that “we are not waging war on Russia” and at the same time to decree against it sanctions of unprecedented magnitude, to publicly advocate a “total economic and financial war on Russia” (Bruno Le Maire) and to supply arms to the Ukrainians.

The Europeans have obediently accepted to undertake sanctions against Russia, of which they will be the first victims because these sanctions are contrary to their own interests, especially in terms of energy and industry (Russia is more self-sufficient than Europe).

By delivering heavy weapons and airplanes to Ukraine, not to restore peace but to prolong the war, the Western countries have taken the serious risk of being considered as cobelligerents.

We have thus left the post-Cold War era. A new Iron Curtain has been set up; this time at the initiative of the West. The Eurasian continent is again cut in two. Finland and Sweden want to join NATO, Switzerland is abandoning its neutrality, Germany is contributing 100 billion euros, and the European Union is taking on the role of arms supplier, while those who yesterday militated for the abolition of all borders are proclaiming that those of Ukraine are inviolable. A historic turn. The consequences of which will also be historic.

The former Czech president, Václav Klaus, said it bluntly—taken hostage by NATO, Ukraine is from the beginning “only a pawn on the chessboard of a larger game.” The first loser of this affair is indeed the unfortunate Ukrainian people, today bombed by the Russians after having been cynically used as a pawn on the American strategic chessboard.

The other big losers are the Europeans who, by aligning themselves almost unanimously with the American positions, have demonstrated once again that they count for nothing. An independent and non-aligned Europe could have worked for a political settlement of the conflict, for a negotiated agreement, as well as for the reconstruction of a new space of collective security on a continental scale, respecting the interests of Europeans as much as those of Russians. It could also have had the equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine.

But this is not what happened. By flatly aligning itself with Anglo-Saxon diktats and adopting measures that are as much oil on the fire, the European Union has lost all credibility.

We are not Westerners, but Europeans

There are in fact two distinct wars going on at the moment. The first one is a fratricidal war, since it opposes two countries coming from the same historical matrix and which remained associated for centuries—but it is not a civil war. It is not a war between two nationalisms, Russian and Ukrainian; but rather a war between the logic of the nation-state and that of the empire (which has never had an ethnic dimension in Russia).

But it is also a proxy war, a war by proxy of Washington against the Kremlin through Ukraine. This also reveals the deep nature of the second war, that of the United States against Russia.

A war that goes far beyond Ukraine, since it is a war of the worlds—a war for or against liberal hegemony, a war of civilizational states against rootless universalism, of peoples concerned with their historical continuity against “open societies,” of the forces of rootedness against the forces of dissolution, of continental powers against “maritime democracies” (United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada). A war of global significance. A war for world power.

This means that the appeals to “Western solidarity” of Joseph Robinette Biden, the living dead man in the White House, leave us cold—for the excellent reason that we are not Westerners, but Europeans.

Alain de Benoit is the well-known thinker and philosopher of what is known as the New Right. He is the author of numerous books and articles. This article appears through the kind courtesy of the journal Éléments and Sylvette Imatz.

Featured: “Iron Curtain,” by Lyle Brown, dated 2011.

Ukraine: From Christianity to Satanism—Part 1

I am Ksenia Golub, a Russian journalist, currently living in Belgrade for three years. But my ties to Serbia go back a long way—I first came to the Balkans in 2009 to shoot a documentary. In this article, I want to share my reflections on the background of the current situation in Ukraine. And in this article, I act both as an eyewitness, as I have repeatedly been in the Donbass for a long time, and as an expert—I am a certified specialist in religion.

The processes of transformation of Ukrainian society, which resulted in a special military operation to denazify this once brotherly country of Russia, began long before the coup d’état took place there. The mental revolution took place much earlier.

I can judge this from my trips back in the early 2000s, to my relatives in Donbass. My relatives lived in Gorlovka, Donetsk, Severodonetsk, and Dokuchayevsk—right on line of fire, where they had been since 2014.

Even during those trips, I encountered fits of anti-Russian rage among representatives of central and especially western Ukraine. “Moskals,” as the Russians were derogatorily called, were blamed for all of the country’s problems. These people always saw the Kremlin’s interference in even the smallest matters. It got to be ridiculous—when Putin was blamed for the problem of poor maintenance of property and backyards. Or when the price of Ukrainian-made food rose.

More than once, I faced open accusations and insults when “real Ukrainians” (residents of Donbass have never been considered such in this country) found out that I was from Russia or heard my Russian speech.

So based on my personal experience I can openly state—the problem of hatred towards everything Russian in this state has deep roots. But in this article, I want to draw attention to another aspect of the problem.

The Emergence of Sects in Ukraine

We all know very well that religion has a huge role in the development of society—we see evidence of this in history. Thanks to Orthodoxy, Russia has turned from a principality into a great empire, while its territory has preserved the various religions of its peoples—from Islam to Lamaism. But it is this Christian faith which was able to unite the people around itself, because it is based on the principle of unity, which is very suitable for the Slavic mentality.

That is why the main anti-Russian ideologist of the United States, Zbigniew Brzezinski called Orthodoxy the main enemy of America.

Ukraine has always been an Orthodox country. Of course, the percentage of Greek Catholics in its western part was quite high, but the country had no more than 4 million adherents of the western branch of Christianity. Most of its residents belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

We all know the phrase: “If you want power, create your own religion.” The fight against Orthodoxy in Ukraine began even earlier than the moment it seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991. Even then, in the late 1980s, representatives of various pseudo-Christian sects, which were closely connected with the Western special services, began to infiltrate the republic.

The word “sect” means to separate or cut off from something. In this case we are talking about the cutting off of believers from the main religion.

In the 2000s, the situation with the activity of various religious and occult organizations in Ukraine reached unbelievable problems. They wrote about it and spoke about it from the rostrum, but their activities remained permissible.

In 2007, Bishop Antony of Boryspil, vicar of the Kiev Metropolitan Church, said that dangerous sects were operating in Ukraine and that their ideology was capable of causing considerable damage to the mental health of the people. An article about this was published in the weekly Dzerkalo Tyzhnya.

In particular, answering the question of what sects in Ukraine can be called the most influential and widespread, the Bishop said: “In the context of our conversation, the word ‘influential’ is identical to the word ‘dangerous’. In brief, we would have to name the Charismatics (Neo-Pentecostals, the most prominent organization, the Embassy of God), Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, the Krishna Consciousness Society, White Lotus, and the Bogorodichny Center. According to the bishop, these are the most dangerous organizations, based on the level of harm caused to the individual.

In 2009 the Ukrainian portal Segodnya.life also published an article on this topic. I will quote part of it.

“Sectologists and psychologists are sounding the alarm: religious organizations, which ‘official churches’ call sects, are developing at a huge pace, with a large influx of neophytes into their ranks expected during the crisis. Recently in Ukraine, several people tried to create a cell of the so-called Islamist sect, which is banned in many countries, but we prevented it,” says SBU spokeswoman Marina Ostapenko. According to her, in the scale and destructiveness the lead is still held by the notorious ‘White Brotherhood,’ which was active in the mid-1990s,” the article said.

Let me remind you of what this association is all about. It was founded in 1990-1991 in Kiev by Yuri Krivonogov and Marina Tsvigun. Later he took the ritual name Yoann Swami (Swami John [the Baptist]) and Tsvigun the name Mary Devi Christos, declaring herself to be the Virgin Mary, the living embodiment of Christ, his mother and bride at the same time.

In 1993 this scandalous sect took over the Orthodox St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. The adherents of the White Brotherhood were waiting for the end of the world and were going to perform a last prayer service in the church. Only the intervention of the riot police helped to free the cathedral. The sect organizers were arrested, but were soon released.

The lifestyle of the sectarians was strict: it was forbidden to eat animal food, make phone calls, or watch TV. A person who joined the White Brotherhood had to break off relations with his family, friends, and colleagues. The members of the Brotherhood lived 20-30 people in one apartment and slept no more than four hours a day. Yuri Krivonogov and Marina Tsvigun promoted self-sacrifice. They said that the adherents had to endure pain, torture, and death. The founders themselves pledged that they would also die, but they would be the last to die. In three days, they would be resurrected, and a very different life would begin on earth.

In Russia, this sect was declared extremist, and its activities on the territory of the state were banned. But in Ukraine it continued to exist, even right now.

The Jehovah Witnesses were also very active; they were constantly walking the streets, distributing their “Watchtower” magazines, making door-to-door visits. And it sometimes came to the point of absurdity, when any stranger who rang the doorbell would face aggression from the apartment-owner, who saw a sectarian in everyone.

In Donetsk itself, “houses of prayer” of these organizations could be readily seen during walks around the city. In conversations with local priests, the depth of the problem was even more vivid. They described situations of complete zombification of former Orthodox believers, who even left their families, forgetting about their children and parents, and who signed over their apartments and other property to the sects.

It is not surprising that we, the future religious studies majors, devoted so much attention to events in neighboring countries during our study at the Department of Theology.

To be continued…

Ksenia Golub is a journalist who lives in Belgrade.

Featured: “The Ghost of a Flea,” by William Blake; painted ca. 1819-1820.

Ukraine: Statehood in Question

The dynamics and challenges of state formation in post-Soviet Ukraine can only be understood and appreciated in the context of the history of Ukraine. Its history, like many other nations of Eastern and Central Europe, was marred by failed or circumscribed statehood. Since the period of Kyiv Rus’, Ukraine witnessed two attempts to build an independent polity, both of which to some degree succeeded in establishing an institutional infrastructure, controlling territory, winning the allegiance of its population and gaining international recognition. However, there was hardly any temporal or symbolic continuity between those historical reincarnations of statehood; they differed radically in terms of the form of government, territory, and the conception of “the people.”

The first, the Cossack Hetmanate, was a pre-modern formation, while, the second, during the Ukrainian Revolution, 1917–1921, not only lasted for a short period of time, but also spawned several different embodiments of the Ukrainian state. Under Soviet rule, Ukraine possessed all of the nominal trappings of sovereign statehood, most notably, a full set of republican institutions, like all other Soviet republics. Yet in reality, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was only a hollow institutional caricature of a sovereign state. In the light of discontinuity and diversity of legal and political institutions, Ukraine’s history does not lend itself to configuration as linear national history modelled on the Western historical narratives of a nation-state, which tend to be centred on dynastic, institutional– administrative and/or territorial continuities.

Post-soviet Ukraine lacks the ‘historical legitimacy’ derived from distinct and ‘identifiable institutional traditions and stable territorial boundaries. Moreover, there is not much else to pin national history onto, because the church, elites, language, and culture were all damaged, disrupted or destroyed and thus could not serve as firm pillars of national history. As von Hagen asserted, “today’s Ukraine is a very modern creation, with little firmly established precedent in the national past.”

As a result of its history, Ukraine emerged as an independent state in 1991 with incompletely articulated and competing ‘grand narratives’ of its past, which glorified conflicting political traditions and historical periods, either pre-communist or Soviet. While few states in Central and Eastern Europe have an unblemished historiographical legitimacy by (ethnocentric) Western standards, the case of Ukraine is particularly complex and interesting because of, firstly, the multiple historical ruptures and, secondly, the advanced erosion of memories of pre-communist statehood. Both of these issues raised the vexed question of what exactly the indigenous political tradition was that Ukraine should embrace upon gaining independence in 1991. History left the elites in post-Soviet Ukraine with a Pandora’s box of constitutional choices when it came to defining the conception of statehood in institutional, territorial and national terms. In particular, the significance of the Soviet rule in Ukraine’s history proved difficult to define with any degree of consensus.

From Kyiv Rus’ to the Hetmanate

The meaning of the name Ukraine, literally “borderland,” reflects its location on the borders of other states, which dominated that part of Europe over the centuries after the disintegration of the first state on the territory of today’s Ukraine—Kyiv Rus’. In the tenth century the Kyivan Rus’ patrimony fostered contacts with Byzantium and converted to Christianity. After the schism within Christendom in 1054, Rus’ became confined to a domain of Orthodox Slavic people. Following the death of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, Kyiv Rus’ disintegrated into many principalities, amongst which the Galician principality to the west was the most powerful. After its demise in 1340 Galicia was incorporated into the Polish state. At the same time, the remaining territory of Kyiv Rus’ fell pray to a Mongol invasion. Undoubtedly, the topography of Ukraine—the flat steppes, which posed no natural boundaries— accounts for the ease and frequency with which the territory of Ukraine was plundered and conquered over centuries, as Ukraine turned into a battle ground for domination by the states which surrounded it, such as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire, the Polish– Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Crimean Tatar Khanate, Moscovy, the Russian empire, and the Habsburg empire.

Apart from the Mongol devastation, in the fourteenth centuries Ukraine was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the north, which was simultaneously coming closer to Poland. The dynastic union of Krevo in 1385 between Lithuania and Poland was followed by the 1569 Union of Lublin, which created the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita). The exposure to the gentrified republic resulted in Ukraine’s Polonisation and conversion to Catholicism. This conversion was institutionalised in the Union of Brest in the 1596 when the Uniate Church was created, which recognised the authority of the Pope, but retained Eastern rites. However, as Poland was not strong enough to defend its eastern borders, it had effective control only of the Right Bank of Dnieper. The Left Bank, the so-called “wild fields,” witnessed the rise of a distinctive socio-political formation—the Zaporizhian Host. The ranks of free Cossack warriors swelled from the influx of peasants who had run away from their masters against encroaching serfdom from Polish Ukraine; as Subtelny pointed out: “in newly colonised Ukraine, some of Europe’s most exploitative feudal lords confronted some of its most defiant masses.”

In 1648, Cossack Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskyi staged a Great Revolt against Polish landlords, inspired also to defend Orthodoxy again Catholic expansion and the autonomous political formation—the Cossack Host—was established on both banks of the Dnieper. Unable to win the war with Poland without help, Khmelnytskyi looked for an ally and in 1654, the Union of Pereiaslav was signed between the Cossack Host and Russia, according to which the Cossacks recognised the authority and obtained the protection of the tsar and the Host joined Russia as an autonomous entity. However, more military struggles followed, and the Treaty of Andrushevo of 1667 split Ukraine: the Left Bank—the so-called Hetmanate—went to Russia, while Poland retained the Right Bank.

In eighteenth century Russia, the Hetmanate developed a separate political identity underpinned by a unique system of government, liberties and rights, which facilitated an emergence of a distinctive Little Russian identity.4 However, the Hetmanate could not survive the strengthening and centralisation of the Russian state and political and cultural differences between Little and Great Russia were gradually ironed out. In 1720 Peter the Great prohibited the publication of books in Ukraine other than religious ones. In addition to halting the development of Ukrainian national culture, which had thrived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this retarded Ukraine, in comparison to Russia, in the development of a modern secular culture. In 1775 the Cossack Sich on the Dnieper was destroyed, followed by the abolition of the Hetmanate in 1783 by Catherine the Great.

The subsequent integration of the Ukrainian elites (starshyna) into the Russian nobility led to the loss of their distinct Little Russian identity, as they took advantage of new career opportunities within the Russian states. By 1820s, the starshyna—the main carrier of a Little Russian identity—was Russified and the peasantry was fully enserfed. By the early nineteenth century, Ukraine’s role as a bridge between the West and Russia came to an end, and Ukraine effectively turned into a province within the Russian empire. Although the Cossack Sich—in the form of the Hetmanate—could survive only under protectorate of a more powerful state, Ukraine developed a distinct political and administrative entity, which survived the best part of the eighteenth century. The Sich and the Hetmanate served as a fertile ground for cultivating glorifying myths of a national liberation struggle and a concerted aspiration for national autonomy, which were apparently frustrated by the tsars’ breach of the Pereiaslav Agreement.

However, the legacy of Cossackdom cannot be easily moulded into the “tradition of statehood.” The stabilisation of the Hetmanate associated with the transformation of the Cossack starshyna into gentry contrasted with the anarchistic-individualistic tradition of the Sich and the Haidamak movements, which exemplified a rebellion against the emergence of the modern, centralised state.

The Cossack tradition did not provide an equivocal design for the institutional framework of a modern state. The Hetmanate combined republican and monarchical traits, as a collective deliberative body (Heneralna Rada, and then Rada Starshykh) co-existed with powerful Hetmans. As such this form of government has been interpreted both as a precursor of a presidential system, in which powers are concentrated in a chief executive, and the government by assembly. But even if mythologised as “the tradition of state building,” the Russification of the Cossack starshyna and the strangling of the autonomy of the Hetmanate meant that this episode in the history of Ukraine did not provide the basis for modern Ukrainian statehood.

Beyond the realm of myths and symbols, the actual impact of the Cossack state on the future make-up of the Ukrainian state, in terms of institutional and legal traditions was minimal, with the exception of the intermittent conservative regime of Hetman Skoropadskyi in 1918. In the context of the discontinuity which followed the Cossack period, the intellectual aspirations to political trappings of statehood in Ukraine cannot be traced back firmly beyond the mid-nineteenth.

Ukraine’s National “Awakening” in the Nineteenth Century

Following the partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the political subordination of Ukraine changed once again. Right-bank Ukraine (Kyiv, Podila, Volynia) was transferred to Russia, hence “re-joining” Left-bank Ukraine, while Galicia became part of the Habsburg Empire. As the modern Ukrainian national movements incubated in parallel in two empires, they developed different traits as a result of diverse political, cultural and socio-economic conditions.

The rise of the modern Ukrainian national movement in the tsarist empire can be conceptualised by using the scheme developed by the Czech historian Miroslav Hroch. Despite its shortcomings, for the purpose of this study, the scheme serves as a useful analytical tool for succinctly outlining developments. Hroch distinguished three phases in the process of national awakening of non-dominant ethnic groups in Eastern Europe: academic, cultural, and political. In the academic stage, from the 1820’s onwards during the so-called Ukrainian Revival, scholars developed an interest in the culture and language of the peasantry, albeit without any defined and articulated political goals.

In the second, cultural stage, a new type of activist embarked on agitation of the ‘ethnographic masses’ in order to win them over to the national cause. In Ukraine, the populists, who rejected the primary historical role of the nobility (especially as by then the Cossack starshyna had been assimilated into the Russian landlord class)11 focused on the masses as an engine of human progress. The work of artist Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861), a redeemed serf, played a pivotal role in this phase. In his writings, Shevchenko used the Ukrainian vernacular to tell of past glories and the present ignominy of Ukraine and its people under foreign yoke.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the predominantly cultural activities of the populists had developed a political vein. The clandestine Cyrillo–Methodian Society of 1846–1847 and the Hromady in the 1850–1860’s combined populism with demands for cultural autonomy. These political ideas, however moderate, had little resonance beyond a narrow group of urban intellectuals. According to the 1897 census, 93 percent of Ukrainians were peasants, in Kyiv 54 percent of the population were Russians, and only 22 percent Ukrainians. There was hardly any Ukrainian bourgeoisie in Left-bank (that is territories to the east of the Dnieper) Ukraine. While the nascent working class was predominantly Russian and Jewish, ethnic Ukrainians—impoverished, peasant, illiterate, passive, and parochial—were not receptive to ideas of national revival and the assertion of cultural rights.

The cultural stage of the development of national consciousness was frustrated by the slow modernisation under tsarist rule and political repression. The process of raising the national awareness of the masses was given a crushing blow in the 1860–1880s in the form of the banning of the Ukrainian language in the public domain, including schools and publishing. Thus, economic backwardness, the repressive policies of the tsarist regime, and the underdevelopment of the educational and cultural infrastructure seriously thwarted the emergence of third stage—the politicisation of the masses in support of national autonomy. Throughout the second part of the nineteenth century, the nascent intellectual elites in tsarist Ukraine grappled with the conception of ‘the Ukrainian people’. They oscillated between the assertion that Ukrainians were a branch of one people (Russkiy narod), who developed a distinct culture because of their different historical experiences (Mykola Kostomarov, 1817–1885), and the more radical assertion that Ukrainians had distinct roots from Russians (Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, 1866– 1934).

Despite these differences, the intellectuals adhered to the federalist model of statehood, in which Ukraine would be one of the constituting units. This model was most fully formulated in the writings of Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841–1895) who advocated the transformation of the Russian Empire into a democratic, constitutional republic composed of twenty states; the territory of Ukraine was to be organised into four states. As a committed socialist-anarchist Drahomanov doubted the role of the state in securing individual freedoms, and thus rejected the Western European model of a centralised nation-state for democratised Russia in general and Ukraine in particular. In Drahomanov’s view, federalism would ensure not only the optimal conditions for Ukraine’s national emancipation, which the centralised tsarist state hampered, but would also realise the universal principle of the individual freedom and autonomy.

In contrast to the proponents of federalism, by the turn of century, the advocates of separatism, that is supporters of outright independence for Ukraine (samostiinist), such as Mykola Mikhnovskyi, Viacheslav Lypynskyi and Dmytro Dontsov were in a minority in “Russian” Ukraine, although they were stronger in Galicia. The obstacles to the development of national movement, however, were not as pronounced in Galicia, which was incorporated into the Habsburg Empire at the end of the eighteenth century, where Ukrainians were known as Ruthenians.

Although the level of socio-economic development was the same or even lower than in tsarist Ukraine, the Crown provinces of Galicia and, to a lesser extent, Bukovina, benefited from the fledging practices of parliamentarism (after 1867), an educational system in Ukrainian, religious freedoms, the right to use Ukrainian in state institutions, they also developed specifically Ukrainian institutions such as economic co-operatives, reading societies, newspapers, etc. In Eastern Galicia ethnic and religious divides coincided with the key social cleavage, as the Polish landlords ruled the Ukrainian peasantry. As a result, the Ukrainian national movement developed in fierce opposition to Poles (but in loyalty to Vienna). Despite some confusion over the issues of identity in Eastern Galicia, independent statehood (samostiinist) was declared the objective of the Ukrainian national movement once Austria–Hungary crumbled, and Ukrainian nationalists encountered competing Polish claims to Eastern Galicia.

The Ukrainian Revolution, 1917-1921

The collapse of the empires in the course of the First World War presented the Ukrainian elites with a long-awaited chance to realise their socio-economic and political ideals. Yet the international context and the divisions between the elites led to a creation of a string of successive governments: the Central Council, the Hetmanate, the Directory in Dnieper Ukraine, and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic in Galicia (Halychyna). While all of them claimed to embody Ukrainian statehood, the relations between them were often full of tensions. The period of the Ukrainian Revolution will be briefly presented below in order to argue that the political, military and social context impacted on the attempt at state building to the extent that it is difficult to define the pre-communist tradition of statehood with a high degree of precision.

Taking into account the ideological profile of the Ukrainian elites, separatism was not on the cards, when in the aftermath of the February revolution, in March 1917, the Central Council (Tsentralna Rada) was created in Kyiv by the prominent Ukrainian populist and socialist intellectuals and activists, such as Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Serkhiy Yefremov, and Semen Petliura.17 The Rada, which turned itself into a representative body in the summer of 1917, competed for power with the Bolsheviks and the Provisional Government in Ukraine.18 In April 1917 the Ukrainian elites called for the federalisation of the Russian state with Ukraine as one of its autonomous units.

Following the October Revolution, in its Third Universal (November 1917), the Central Council proclaimed the creation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) which was to be joined by federal ties to democratic Russia. It was only the military offensive of the Bolsheviks on Kyiv that forced the Ukrainian elites to accept that “a complete breakup of the Russian imperial state was a more realistic goal than its democratisation and federalisation, and that for Ukraine the alternatives were, indeed, either independent statehood or national annihilation.”

In January 1918 in its Fourth Universal the Rada proclaimed full independence of Russia. However, this accelerated radicalisation of the Ukrainian national movement was not backed by the institutional and human resources necessary to turn proclamations into reality. In particular, the Ukrainian leaders, inexperienced and idealistic as they were, failed to appreciate the need for establishing state institutions and an army to defend its territory. This proved to have pivotal consequences as soon as Ukraine became a theatre of numerous military interventions.

Despite the fact that the Bolsheviks lacked popular support in Ukraine (their power base was limited to the Russian working class), they had a competitive advantage over the Rada thanks to their military, industrial, and organisational superiority. The Bolsheviks refused to recognise the “bourgeois-nationalist” UNR as a legitimate government of Ukraine and staged a war against the new Ukrainian state. In turn, the Central Powers (Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) recognised the UNR and signed a separate peace treaty in Brest in February 1918. Under the pretext of assisting the UNR against the Bolsheviks, the Germans entered Ukraine in April 1918 and triggered the fall of the Rada on 30 April 1918 (on the very day when the Constitution of the UNR was debated).

Under German tutelage power was taken over by the conservative Hetmanate led by a descendant of a Cossack Hetman, General Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who was supported predominantly by Russified and Russian landowners. Having announced the creation of the “Ukrainian State” (Ukrainska Derzhava), he assumed the role of the Hetman. However, following the defeat of Germany and Austro–Hungary and Skoropadskyi’s decision to enter a federal treaty with (non-Bolshevik) Russia, the Hetmanate was overturned seven months later. The UNR was restored when a new Ukrainian government, the Directory (Dyrektoriat), emerged in November 1918 led by, among others, social-democrats Volodymyr Vynnychenko and Symon Petliura. Soon Petliura assumed the role of Chief Otaman of the republican army in order to lead a military struggle on several fronts. However, mass support for the UNR and revolutionary vigour of the peasantry had evaporated by early 1919, and anarchy and chaos swept Ukraine, with the Bolsheviks, Whites, Denikin, anarchist Makchno and the Ukrainian troops moving across and fighting on its territory.

In Western Ukraine, in November 1918, the collapse of Austro– Hungary prompted the creation of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR), under the leadership of Yevhen Petrushevych. The ZUNR immediately clashed with Poles who voiced competing claims to Eastern Galicia, and the resulting war with Poland engulfed the larger part of the province. Apart from military actions against the ZUNR, the Polish army simultaneously fought the army of Petliura in Volynia. Thus, before the Directory’s troops were expelled from Kyiv by the Bolsheviks in January 1919, Ukrainian forces consolidated to fight the common enemies.

On 22 January 1919 unification of the UNR and the ZUNR was proclaimed in Kyiv in the “Act of Unity” (Akt Sobornosti). The concept of Sobornist’, which until then referred to the ecclesiastical unity of the Orthodox Church, came to denote the unification of all historical Ukrainian territories into one state. The enlarged Ukrainian state was to be a quasi-federal as Galicia was to maintain its autonomy as a Western Ukrainian Oblast of the UNR (ZOUNR). Yet the scope of this autonomy remained undefined, as actual unification never took place, because of the military struggle on the one hand, and the profound ideological and cultural rift between the revolutionary Dnieper elites and more conservative, legally-minded and nationalist Galician leaders, on the other.

The weakness of Ukrainian forces and their military defeats against the Bolsheviks prompted Petliura to enter an alliance with Poland at the cost of conceding Galicia. According to the Treaty of Warsaw in April 1920, the UNR renounced its authority over Eastern Galicia in favour of Poland in exchange for military help against the Bolsheviks, which by that time had instituted their government in Kharkiv. The treaty was interpreted as treason by Western Ukrainians, who, in retaliation broke off their alliance with Petliura. The joint Ukrainian–Polish forces failed to win their war with Bolshevik Russia, and the Treaty of Riga of 1921 between Poland, Russia and the Soviet Ukraine confirmed the division of Ukraine along the lines defined in the Treaty of Warsaw, which conceded Eastern Galicia and Volynia to Poland.

The bitter disillusionment with the failure to secure independence over 1917–1921 steered some sections of the Ukrainian elites towards an indigenous strand of integral nationalism, the leading ideologist of which was Dmytro Dontsov. It is beyond the scope of this section to debate the causes of the ultimate failure of a state building project. In general, this failure has been attributed to a lack of social basis and incompleteness of the sociological nation; a lack of experience, procrastination, indecisiveness and internal divisions amongst the revolutionary elites; and the ideology of the elites, and neglect of institution building coupled with a lack of international support.

Yet the UNR, the existence of which was punctuated by the regime of Hetman Skoropadskyi in 1918, represented not only the first consolidated effort to organise a Ukrainian state in the modern era, but also a particular framing of statehood, which was nurtured by the conjunction of particular historical, political, socioeconomic and cultural circumstances. In contrast to a centralised, autocratic tsarist regime, the UNR embodied aspirations to radical parliamentarism, decentralisation, and the pluralist conception of a political community. And the socio-economic plight of Ukrainian society shaped the socialist and social-democratic ideas on the state’s role in the socioeconomic transformation. However, the latter ideas were not shared by the Western Ukrainian elites, something that prevented the coming together of the elites from Galicia and Dnieper Ukraine to build a Soborna Ukraina.

The conceptions of statehood, embracing an institutional framework, territorial model and notion of the political community, which were put forward in the period of 1917–1921, will be analysed in more detail below. It will be shown that even if any particular institutional design is difficult to pin down because of disruptions, the overarching principles guiding the Ukrainian leaders can be asserted with some clarity. The principles, however, did not find much support when the renewed state building project was embarked on in 1991.

The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1919-1991

Despite the unmitigated failure to set up an independent state in 1917– 1921, the endeavour advanced the cause of Ukrainian statehood; it compelled the Bolsheviks, who from 1919 onwards consolidated power in Ukraine, to recognise these aspirations. The strength of the centrifugal forces unleashed in the peripheries of the tsarist empire prompted the Bolsheviks to take on the federalist principle of Austro–Marxism; they first set up an “alliance” and then a “union of states,” which in addition to Russia included national republics created of former borderlands of the Russian empire. In order to accommodate the fledging national sentiments of non-Russians in the new state, amongst others Ukrainians were granted their own ethno-territorial homeland—a Soviet Socialist Republic—as:

[T]he embodiment of a compromise between Ukrainian nationalism and Russian centralism—of course not in the sense of a formal, negotiated agreement but rather of a de facto balancing of antagonistic social forces, neither of which was strong enough to assert itself completely.

After two unsuccessful attempts to gain control over Ukraine in 1918 and 1919, the third Soviet Ukrainian government was established in December 1919. The 1919 constitution passed by the Soviet Ukrainian government in Kharkiv guaranteed the sovereignty of Soviet Ukraine and the right to conduct an independent foreign policy. Although the 1920 Treaty between Soviet Ukraine and RSFSR established an economic and military union, and Ukraine surrendered some commissariats to RSFSR, it was still defined as a sovereign and independent republic with rights to maintain direct diplomatic relations with other states.

On the basis of the 1919 constitution, the Ukrainian SSR acted as a constitutive member of the Soviet Union in December 1922, when the treaty was signed by the representatives of the Russian, Belarussian, Transcaucasian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics, as a result of which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics came into being. Alongside many ethnic groups in the borderland of the tsarist empire, Ukrainians were endowed with all the nominal trappings of statehood but denied sovereignty.

The subsequent republican constitutions of 1926, 1937 and 1978 defined Ukraine as a “sovereign republic,” while the constitutions of the USSR declared that “every union republic shall retain the free right to secession from the USSR” (article 13 of the 1936 constitution and article 72 of the 1977 constitution of the USSR).

The republic was equipped with a complete set of legal and administrative institutions. Moreover, perpetuating the façade of independence, together with Belarus, Ukraine was also granted membership of the United Nations in 1945. Like all other republics, Ukrainian sovereignty was a constitutional figure of speech. The new constitutions of the UkrSSR of 1926, 1937 and 1978 were duly adopted after the passage of the Constitutions of the USSR (in 1924, 1936 and 1977),44 and all the constitutional texts were drafted under the instructions from the centre.

Moscow provided all Soviet republics with an almost identical template of administrative, economic and cultural institutions, such as ministries, academy of sciences, writers’ unions, etc. The republican sovereignty was circumvented by removing decision-making powers from the republican institutions and vesting them with the Communist Party of Ukraine, which constituted an integral part of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in accordance with the principle of democratic centralism. But quite apart from the omnipotent role of the Communist Party, the constitutional provisions explicitly asserted the supremacy of the Union centre over the republics.

Republican institutions, including the Supreme Council, were subordinated to All-Union institutions, which had authority to override the decisions of the republican institutions. The 1936 and 1977 constitutions of the USSR included a provision that ‘in the event of divergence between the laws of the union republics and a law of the Union, the Union law prevails’ (arts. 20 and 74, respectively), while the 1978 constitution of the UkrSSR asserted that ‘the economy of UkrSSR forms an integral part of one economic system, which encompasses all aspects of social production, distribution and exchange on the territory of the USSR’ (art.16). The constitutional subordination of Soviet Ukraine to the Union, and the monopolisation of decision-making process in the Party rendered Ukrainian sovereignty a constitutional fiction. Because of the largely nominal character of the constitutions of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Sliusarenko and Tomenko, the editors of the post-Soviet compilation of Ukrainian constitutional acts, concluded

All four constitutions of the Soviet Ukraine were political documents and were drafted in the ideological departments of the Central Committee of the CPSU. Taking this into account, as well as Ukraine’s status of quasi-state these [Soviet] constitutional acts can be included in the category of the fundamental laws of the state only with great caution.

Nevertheless, even if the Ukrainian SSR can be defined as a pseudostate at best, it shaped the identity of independent Ukraine in institutional, territorial and national terms. While the Ukrainian Revolution lasted effectively for 4 years, Soviet rule in Ukraine spanned seven decades and left an enduring imprint on society and its political structures.

Territorial Changes and Administrative Division

The Soviet Union created a highly centralised model of statehood. Under Soviet rule, the bulk of ethnographic Ukrainian territories were unified for the first time within the boundaries of the Ukrainian SSR. The republic was initially made up of nine gubernias of the Russian empire: Kyiv, Podila, Volynia, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, Kherson, Taurida, but without Crimea (that is the territory claimed by the UNR in the Third Universal of July 1917), and it also included some western districts of the Don Army province. In 1924 the Autonomous Socialist Republic of Moldova was created of several raions adjacent to the border with Romania, while some territorial adjustment in favour of the Russian SFSR were made in 1925.

In September 1939 Western Ukraine was annexed by the USSR, as a consequence of the Ribbentrop–Molotov pact, and on 1 November it was officially incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR.51 In 1940 Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia became part of the UkrSSR, while the rest of Bessarabia formed the Moldovan SSR. In 1945 Transcarpathia (also known as Subcarpathia or the Carpathian Rus’) was conceded to Ukraine in a treaty with Czechoslovakia. As result of the 1939–1945 border changes the following oblasts were created: Lvivska, Volynska, Rivenska, IvanoFrankivska, Chernivetska, Ternopilska, Akermanska (Izmail), and Zakarpatska.52 The formation of present day Ukraine was completed with the transfer of the Crimean Oblast (which until 1945 was the Crimean Autonomous Socialist Republic) in 1954.

After 1954, the Ukrainian SSR consisted of 25 oblasts and 2 cities of republican subordination—Kyiv and Sevastopol. Oblasts were purely territorial–administrative units and did not correspond to historical regions. Oblasts were further divided into districts (raion), cities (which were further divided into raiony), and rural settlements.53 Each of those territorial units was represented in a soviet (rada). As pointed above, there was no conceptual distinction between local, territorial and central government as the Soviet Union adhered to the so-called state theory of self-government, and the local and territorial governing bodies formed an integrated part of the state apparatus. In contrast to the Western state tradition of self-government, the councils combined the functions of self-government with state powers, something that effectively denied their autonomy from the central authorities.

The Political Community

The Soviet regime in Ukraine constructed a complex, but essentially contradictory notion of the political community in attempt to reconcile class, ethnicity and territory as the markers of the political community in each republic. The four constitutions of the Soviet Ukraine (1919, 1926, 1937 and 1978) adhered to territory and class rather than ethnicity as the main criteria: “Ukraine (was) a state of all people, expressing the will and interests of the workers, peasants and intelligentsia: the working people of all nationalities of the Republic” (1978 Constitution of the UkrSSR).

At the same time, ethnicity was recognised as an important social category by the very formation of the UkrSSR, as Ukrainians were a titular nationality of a national–territorial administrative unit, after which that unit was named, and enjoyed some privileges conferred by the centre on titular majorities in the Soviet republics. Nationality was also institutionalised at a personal level as an ascriptive, legal category. It was fixed regardless of the place of residence, and, as such, acquired an extra-territorial, ethno-cultural dimension. Thus, as Brubaker argues the Soviet Union institutionalised two distinct models of nationhood: territorial/political and personal/ethnic.

While these categories were overlapping, they were never made fully congruent, as representatives of one nationality did not reside only in their ‘titular’ republics. The UkrSSR was not inhabited exclusively by Ukrainians, and Ukrainians lived in other Soviet republics. Yet the lack of congruence between the ethno-cultural and territorial models did not matter because of the largely symbolic nature of the republican, territorial boundaries. The constitutional fiction of sovereignty made Ukraine’s political community only nominally ‘national’ and fully submerged in the wider community of the Soviet People (Sovietskyi narod). However, once the republican boundaries acquired political significance, this dual conception of a political community could not be sustained and a choice had to be made. The question of what united and turned citizens of independent Ukraine into ‘the people’, and the related questions of attributes of the state, such as state language, symbols, minority rights, proved to be highly sensitive and contentious.


When new states emerge, their apparent newness tends to be underplayed by stressing the historical roots of a new polity; any preceding tradition of statehood, however short and circumstantial, is flagged up in order to boost the historical legitimacy of a new polity and dissipate an image of an artificial construct. Thus, the national past becomes a cognitive point of reference in the renewed process of state building and is often explicitly evoked (most tangibly in the Preamble of constitutions).

The predicament of Ukraine was that its different parts had different pasts. As it was variously ruled by other states, such as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the tsarist Russia, the Habsburg empire, inter-war Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, prior to 1954 Ukraine did not exist as a state within its current borders under a uniform set of institutions. Moreover, the indigenous tradition of Ukrainian statehood in the pre-communist period was multivocal as was seen by the Ukrainian People’s Republic, Skoropadskyi’s Hetmanate, and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic. Their existence was cut short by the formation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The UkrSSR was nominally conceived as a sovereign state, with a fully blown institutional edifice, yet it was a skeleton state with no life of its own and was animated by Moscow. And despite their temporal succession, the UkrSSR was cut off from the traditions of the UNR. Any historical continuity was denied and throughout Soviet rule, the UNR was depicted as a creation of the “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists,” in spite of the socialist and social-democratic orientation of its leaders.

Also, in terms of institutional design and Marxist–Leninist ideology, Soviet rule spelled a marked departure from the parliamentary, decentralised, and pluralistic traditions of the UNR. Thus, the twentieth century developments were marred by the kind of discontinuity, which characterised Ukraine’s earlier history. With its multiple and disjointed pasts, there were multiple sources of cognitive reference for constitution-makers in post-Soviet Ukraine.

The demise of the USSR posed the question of the historical pedigree of the new state, and made any kind of restoration of pre-communist models in post-Soviet Ukraine onerous. Thus, Ukrainian state building, as reflected in the constitution making which started on the eve of independence, entailed the contest and reconciliation of alternative visions of an idealised political order, which were inspired by different interpretations of the Ukrainian pre-communist and communist past.

Kataryna Wolczuk is an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia programme and professor of East European Politics at the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies (CREES), University of Birmingham. A version of this appeared as a chapter in The Moulding of Ukraine: The Constitutional Politics of State Formation.

Featured: “Knight at the Crossroads,” by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov; painted in 1882.

Our Interview with Jacques Baud

In this penetrating interview, Jacques Baud delves into geopolitics to help us better understand what is actually taking place in the Ukraine, in that it is ultimately the larger struggle for global dominance, led by the United States, NATO and the political leaders of the West and against Russia.

As always, Colonel Baud brings to bear his well-informed analysis, which is unique for its depth and gravity. We are sure that you will find this conservation informative, insightful and crucial in connecting the dots.

The Postil (TP): We are so very pleased to have you join us for this conversation. Would you please tell us a little about yourself, about your background?

Jacques Baud (JB): Thank you for inviting me! As to my education, I have a master’s degree in Econometrics and postgraduate diplomas in International Relations and in International Security from the Graduate Institute for International relations in Geneva (Switzerland). I worked as strategic intelligence officer in the Swiss Department of Defense, and was in charge of the Warsaw Pact armed forces, including those deployed abroad (such as Afghanistan, Cuba, Angola, etc.) I attended intelligence training in the UK and in the US. Just after the end of the Cold War, I headed for a few years a unit in the Swiss Defense Research and Procurement Agency. During the Rwanda War, because of my military and intelligence background, I was sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo as security adviser to prevent ethnic cleansing in the Rwandan refugee camps.

During my time in the intelligence service, I was in touch with the Afghan resistance movement of Ahmed Shah Masood, and I wrote a small handbook to help Afghans in demining and neutralizing Soviet bomblets. In the mid-1990, the struggle against antipersonnel mines became a foreign policy priority of Switzerland. I proposed to create a center that would collect information about landmines and demining technologies for the UN. This led to the creation of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva. I was later offered to head the Policy and Doctrine Unit of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. After two years in New York, I went to Nairobi to perform a similar job for the African Union.

Jacques Baud, Darfour.

Then I was assigned to NATO to counter the proliferation of small arms. Switzerland is not a member of the Alliance, but this particular position had been negotiated as a Swiss contribution to the Partnership for Peace with NATO. In 2014, as the Ukraine crisis unfolded, I monitored the flow of small arms in the Donbass. Later, in the same year I was involved in a NATO program to assist the Ukrainian armed forces in restoring their capacities and improving personnel management, with the aim of restoring trust in them.

TP: You have written two insightful articles about the current conflict in the Ukraine, which we had the great privilege to translate and publish (here and here). Was there a particular event or an instance which led you to formulate this much-needed perspective?

JB: As a strategic intelligence officer, I always advocated providing to the political or military decision-makers the most accurate and the most objective intelligence. This is the kind of job where you need to keep you prejudice and your feelings to yourself, in order to come up with an intelligence that reflects as much as possible the reality on the ground rather than your own emotions or beliefs. I also assume that in a modern democratic State decision must be fact-based. This is the difference with autocratic political systems where decision-making is ideology-based (such as in the Marxist States) or religion-based (such as in the French pre-revolutionary monarchy).

Jacques Baud with the New Sudan Brigade.

Thanks to my various assignments, I was able to have an insider view in most recent conflicts (such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and, of course, Ukraine). The main common aspect between all these conflicts is that we tend to have a totally distorted understanding of them. We do not understand our enemies, their rationale, their way of thinking and their real objectives. Hence, we are not even able to articulate sound strategies to fight them. This is especially true with Russia. Most people, including the top brass, tend to confuse “Russia” and “USSR.” As I was in NATO, I could hardly find someone who could explain what Russia’s vision of the world is or even its political doctrine. Lot of people think Vladimir Putin is a communist. We like to call him a “dictator,” but we have a hard time to explain what we mean by that. As examples, people come up invariably with the assassination of such and such journalist or former FSB or GRU agents, although evidence is extremely debatable. In other words, even if it is true, we are not able to articulate exactly the nature of the problem. As a result, we tend to portray the enemy as we wished him to be, rather than as he actually is. This is the ultimate recipe for failure. This explains why, after five years spent within NATO, I am more concerned about Western strategic and military capabilities than before.

Jacques Baud.

In 2014, during the Maidan revolution in Kiev, I was in NATO in Brussels. I noticed that people didn’t assess the situation as it was, but as they wished it would be. This is exactly what Sun Tzu describes as the first step towards failure. In fact, it appeared clear to me that nobody in NATO had the slightest interest in Ukraine. The main goal was to destabilize Russia.

TP: How do you perceive Volodymyr Zelensky? Who is he, really? What is his role in this conflict? It seems he wants to have a “forever war,” since he must know he cannot win? Why does he want to prolong this conflict?

JB: Volodymyr Zelensky was elected on the promise he would make peace with Russia, which I think is a noble objective. The problem is that no Western country, nor the European Union managed to help him realize this objective. After the Maidan revolution, the emerging force in the political landscape was the far-right movement. I do not like to call it “neo-Nazi” because “Nazism” was a clearly defined political doctrine, while in Ukraine, we are talking about a variety of movements that combine all the features of Nazism (such as antisemitism, extreme nationalism, violence, etc.), without being unified into a single doctrine. They are more like a gathering of fanatics.

After 2014, Ukrainian armed forces’ command & control was extremely poor and was the cause of their inability to handle the rebellion in Donbass. Suicide, alcohol incidents, and murder surged, pushing young soldiers to defect. Even the British government noted that young male individuals preferred to emigrate rather than to join the armed forces. As a result, Ukraine started to recruit volunteers to enforce Kiev’s authority in the Russian speaking part of the country. These volunteers ere (and still are) recruited among European far-right extremists. According to Reuters, their number amounts to 102,000. They have become a sizeable and influential political force in the country.

The problem here is that these far-right fanatics threatened to kill Zelensky were he to try to make peace with Russia. As a result, Zelensky found himself sitting between his promises and the violent opposition of an increasingly powerful far-right movement. In May 2019, on the Ukrainian media Obozrevatel, Dmytro Yarosh, head of the “Pravy Sektor” militia and adviser to the Army Commander in Chief, openly threatened Zelensky with death, if he came to an agreement with Russia. In other words, Zelensky appears to be blackmailed by forces he is probably not in full control of.

In October 2021, the Jerusalem Post published a disturbing report on the training of Ukrainian far-right militias by American, British, French and Canadian armed forces. The problem is that the “collective West” tends to turn a blind eye to these incestuous and perverse relationships in order to achieve its own geopolitical goals. It is supported by unscrupulous far-right biased medias against Israel, which tend to approve the criminal behavior of these militias. This situation has repeatedly raised Israel’s concerns. This explains why Zelensky’s demands to the Israeli parliament in March 2022 were not well received and have not been successful.

So, despite his probable willingness to achieve a political settlement for the crisis with Russia, Zelensky is not allowed to do so. Just after he indicated his readiness to talk with Russia, on 25 February, the European Union decided two days later to provide €450M in arms to Ukraine. The same happened in March. As soon as Zelensky indicated he wanted to have talks with Vladimir Putin on 21 March, the European Union decided to double its military aid to €1 billion on 23 March. End of March, Zelensky made an interesting offer that was retracted shortly after.

Apparently, Zelensky is trying to navigate between Western pressure and his far right on the one hand and his concern to find a solution on the other, and is forced into a ” back-and-forth,” which discourages the Russian negotiators.

In fact, I think Zelensky is in an extreme uncomfortable position, which reminds me of Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky’s during WWII. Rokossovsky had been imprisoned in 1937 for treason and sentenced to death by Stalin. In 1941, he got out of prison on Stalin’s orders and was given a command. He was eventually promoted to Marshall of the Soviet Union in 1944, but his death sentence was not lifted until 1956.

Today, Zelensky must lead his country under the sword of Damocles, with the blessing of Western politicians and unethical media. His lack of political experience made him an easy prey for those who were trying to exploit Ukraine against Russia, and in the hands of extreme right-wing movements. As he acknowledges in an interview with CNN, he was obviously lured into believing that Ukraine would enter NATO more easily after an open conflict with Russia, as Oleksey Arestovich, his adviser, confirmed in 2019.

TP: What do you think will be the fate of the Ukraine? Will it be like all the other experiments in “spreading democracy” (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.)? Or is Ukraine a special case?

JB: I have definitely no crystal ball… At this stage, we can only guess what Vladimir Putin wants. He probably wants to achieve two main goals. The first one is to secure the situation of the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine. How, remains an open question. Does he want to re-create the “Novorossiya” that tried to emerge from the 2014 unrests? This “entity” that never really existed, and it consisted of the short-lived Republics of Odessa, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov and Lugansk, of which only the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk “survived.” The autonomy referendum planned for early May in the city of Kherson might be an indication for this option. Another option would be to negotiate an autonomous status for these areas, and to return them to Ukraine in exchange of its neutrality.
The second goal is to have a neutral Ukraine (some will say a “Finlandized Ukraine”). That is—without NATO. It could be some kind of Swiss “armed neutrality.” As you know, in the early 19th century, Switzerland had a neutral status imposed on it by the European powers, as well as the obligation to prevent any misuse of its territory against one of these powers. This explains the strong military tradition we have in Switzerland and the main rationale for its armed forces today. Something similar could probably be considered for Ukraine.

An internationally recognized neutral status would grant Ukraine a high degree of security. This status prevented Switzerland from being attacked during the two world wars. The often-mentioned example of Belgium is misleading, because during both world wars, its neutrality was declared unilaterally and was not recognized by the belligerents. In the case of Ukraine, it would have its own armed forces, but would be free from any foreign military presence: neither NATO, nor Russia. This is just my guess, and I have no clue about how this could be feasible and accepted in the current polarized international climate.

I am not sure about the so-called “color-revolutions” aim at spreading democracy. My take is that it is just a way to weaponize human rights, the rule of law or democracy in order to achieve geo-strategic objectives. In fact, this was clearly spelled out in a memo to Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, in 2017. Ukraine is a case in point. After 2014, despite Western influence, it has never been a democracy: corruption soared between 2014 and 2020; in 2021, it banned opposition media and jailed the leader of the main parliamentary opposition party. As some international organizations have reported, torture is a common practice, and opposition leaders as well as journalists are chased by the Ukrainian Security Service.

TP: Why is the West only interested in drawing a simplistic image of the Ukraine conflict? That of “good guys” and the “bad guys?” Is the Western public really now that dumbed down?

JB: I think this is inherent to any conflict. Each side tends to portray itself as the “good guy.” This is obviously the main reason.

Besides this, other factors come into play. First, most people, including politicians and journalists, still confuse Russia and the USSR. For instance, they don’t understand why the communist party is the main opposition party in Russia.

Second, since 2007, Putin was systematically demonized in the West. Whether or not he is a “dictator” Is a matter of discussion; but it is worth noting that his approval rate in Russia never fell below 59 % in the last 20 years. I take my figures from the Levada Center, which is labeled as “foreign agent” in Russia, and hence doesn’t reflect the Kremlin’s views. It is also interesting to see that in France, some of the most influential so-called “experts” on Russia are in fact working for the British MI-6’s “Integrity Initiative.”

Third, in the West, there is a sense that you can do whatever you want if it is in the name of western values. This is why the Russian offensive in Ukraine is passionately sanctioned, while FUKUS (France, UK, US) wars get strong political support, even if they are notoriously based on lies. “Do what I say, not what I do!” One could ask what makes the conflict in Ukraine worse than other wars. In fact, each new sanction we apply to Russia highlights the sanctions we haven’t applied earlier to the US, the UK or France.

The purpose of this incredible polarization is to prevent any dialogue or negotiation with Russia. We are back to what happened in 1914, just before the start of WWI…

TP: What will Russia gain or lose with this involvement in the Ukraine (which is likely to be long-term)? Russia is facing a conflict on “two fronts,” it would seem: a military one and an economic one (with the endless sanctions and “canceling” of Russia).

JB: With the end of the Cold War, Russia expected being able to develop closer relations with its Western neighbors. It even considered joining NATO. But the US resisted every attempt of rapprochement. NATO structure does not allow for the coexistence of two nuclear superpowers. The US wanted to keep its supremacy.

Since 2002, the quality of the relations with Russia decayed slowly, but steadily. It reached a first negative “peak” in 2014 after the Maidan coup. The sanctions have become US and EU primary foreign policy tool. The Western narrative of a Russian intervention in Ukraine got traction, although it was never substantiated. Since 2014, I haven’t met any intelligence professional who could confirm any Russian military presence in the Donbass. In fact, Crimea became the main “evidence” of Russian “intervention.” Of course, Western historians ignore superbly that Crimea was separated from Ukraine by referendum in January 1991, six months before Ukrainian independence and under Soviet rule. In fact, it’s Ukraine that illegally annexed Crimea in 1995. Yet, western countries sanctioned Russia for that…

Since 2014 sanctions severely affected east-west relations. After the signature of the Minsk Agreements in September 2014 and February 2015, the West—namely France, Germany as guarantors for Ukraine, and the US—made no effort whatsoever to make Kiev comply, despite repeated requests from Moscow.

Russia’s perception is that whatever it will do, it will face an irrational response from the West. This is why, in February 2022, Vladimir Putin realized he would gain nothing in doing nothing. If you take into account his mounting approval rate in the country, the resilience of the Russian economy after the sanctions, the loss of trust in the US dollar, the threatening inflation in the West, the consolidation of the Moscow-Beijing axis with the support of India (which the US has failed to keep in the “Quad”), Putin’s calculation was unfortunately not wrong.

Regardless of what Russia does, US and western strategy is to weaken it. From that point on, Russia has no real stake in its relations with us. Again, the US objective is not to have a “better” Ukraine or a “better” Russia, but a weaker Russia. But it also shows that the United States is not able to rise higher than Russia and that the only way to overcome it is to weaken it. This should ring an alarm bell in our countries…

TP: You have written a very interesting book on Putin. Please tell us a little about it.

JB: In fact, I started my book in October 2021, after a show on French state TV about Vladimir Putin. I am definitely not an admirer of Vladimir Putin, nor of any Western leader, by the way. But the so-called experts had so little understanding of Russia, international security and even of simple plain facts, that I decided to write a book. Later, as the situation around Ukraine developed, I adjusted my approach to cover this mounting conflict.
The idea was definitely not to relay Russian propaganda. In fact, my book is based exclusively on western sources, official reports, declassified intelligence reports, Ukrainian official medias, and reports provided by the Russian opposition. The approach was to demonstrate that we can have a sound and factual alternative understanding of the situation just with accessible information and without relying on what we call “Russian propaganda.”

The underlying thinking is that we can only achieve peace if we have a more balanced view of the situation. To achieve this, we have to go back to the facts. Now, these facts exist and are abundantly available and accessible. The problem is that some individuals make every effort to prevent this and tend to hide the facts that disturb them. This is exemplified by some so-called journalist who dubbed me “The spy who loved Putin!” This is the kind of “journalists” who live from stirring tensions and extremism. All figures and data provided by our media about the conflict come from Ukraine, and those coming from Russia are automatically dismissed as propaganda. My view is that both are propaganda. But as soon as you come up with western data that do not fit into the mainstream narrative, you have extremists claiming you “love Putin.”

Our media are so worried about finding rationality in Putin’s actions that they turn a blind eye to the crimes committed by Ukraine, thus generating a feeling of impunity for which Ukrainians are paying the price. This is the case of the attack on civilians by a missile in Kramatorsk—we no longer talk about it because the responsibility of Ukraine is very likely, but this means that the Ukrainians could do it again with impunity.

On the contrary, my book aims at reducing the current hysteria that prevent any political solution. I do not want to deny the Ukrainians the right to resist the invasion with arms. If I were Ukrainian, I would probably take the arms to defend my land. The issue here is that it must be their decision. The role of the international community should not be to add fuel to the fire by supplying arms but to promote a negotiated solution.

To move in this direction, we must make the conflict dispassionate and bring it back into the realm of rationality. In any conflict the problems come from both sides; but here, strangely, our media show us that they all come from one side only. This is obviously not true; and, in the end, it is the Ukrainian people who pay the price of our policy against Vladimir Putin.

TP: Why is Putin hated so much by the Western elite?

JB: Putin became Western elite’s “bête noire” in 2007 with his famous speech in Munich. Until then, Russia had only moderately reacted to NATO expansion. But as the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002 and started negotiations with some East European countries to deploy anti-ballistic missiles, Russia felt the heat and Putin virulently criticized the US and NATO.

This was the start of a relentless effort to demonize Vladimir Putin and to weaken Russia. The problem was definitely not human rights or democracy, but the fact that Putin dared to challenge the western approach. The Russians have in common with the Swiss the fact that they are very legalistic. They try to strictly follow the rules of international law. They tend to follow “law-based International order.” Of course, this is not the image we have, because we are used to hiding certain facts. Crimea is a case in point.

In the West, since the early 2000s, the US has started to impose a “rules-based international order.” As an example, although the US officially recognizes that there is only one China and that Taiwan is only a part of it, it maintains a military presence on the island and supplies weapons. Imagine if China would supply weapons to Hawaii (which was illegally annexed in the 19th century)!

What the West is promoting is an international order based on the “law of the strongest.” As long as the US was the sole superpower, everything was fine. But as soon as China and Russia started to emerge as world powers, the US tried to contain them. This is exactly what Joe Biden said in March 2021, shortly after taking office: “The rest of the world is closing in and closing in fast. We can’t allow this to continue.”

As Henry Kissinger said in the Washington Post: “For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” This is why I felt we need to have a more factual approach to this conflict.

TP: Do you know who was involved and when it was decided by the US and NATO that regime change in Russia was a primary geopolitical objective?

JB: I think everything started in the early 2000s. I am not sure the objective was a regime change in Moscow, but it was certainly to contain Russia. This is what we have witnessed since then. The 2014 events in Kiev have boosted US efforts.

These were clearly defined in 2019, in two publications of the RAND Corporation [James Dobbins, Raphael S. Cohen, Nathan Chandler, Bryan Frederick, Edward Geist, Paul DeLuca, Forrest E. Morgan, Howard J. Shatz, Brent Williams, “Extending Russia : Competing from Advantageous Ground,” RAND Corporation, 2019; James Dobbins & al., “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia,” RAND Corporation, (Doc Nr. RB-10014-A), 2019]. .This has nothing to do with the rule of law, democracy or human rights, but only with maintaining US supremacy in the world. In other words, nobody cares about Ukraine. This is why the international community (that is, Western countries) make every effort to prolong the conflict.

Since 2014, this is exactly what happened. Everything the West did was to fulfill US strategic objectives.

TP: In this regard, you have also written another interesting book, on Alexei Navalny. Please tell us about what you have found out about Navalny.

JB: What disturbed me about the Navalny case was the haste with which Western governments condemned Russia and applied sanctions, even before knowing the results of an impartial investigation. So, my point in the book is not “to tell truth,” because we do not know exactly what the truth is, even if we have consistent indications that the official narrative is wrong.
The interesting aspect is that the German doctors in the Charité Hospital in Berlin, were not able to identify any nerve agent in Navalny’s body. Surprisingly, they published their findings in the respected medical review The Lancet, showing that Navalny probably experienced a bad combination of medicine and other substances.

The Swedish military lab that analyzed Navalny’s blood—redacted the name of the substance they discovered, which is odd since everybody expected “Novichok” to be mentioned.

The bottom line is that we don’t know exactly what happened, but the nature of the symptoms, the reports of the German doctors, the answers provided by the German government to the Parliament, and the puzzling Swedish document tend to exclude a criminal poisoning, and therefore, a fortiori, poisoning by the Russian government.

The main point of my book is that international relations cannot be “Twitter-driven.” We need to use appropriately our intelligence resources, not as a propaganda instrument, as we tend to do these days, but as an instrument for smart and fact-based decision-making.

TP: You have much experience within NATO. What do you think is the primary role of NATO now?

JB: This is an essential question. In fact, NATO hasn’t really evolved since the end of the Cold War. This is interesting because in 1969, there was the “Harmel Report” that was ahead of its time and could be the fundament of a new definition of NATO’s role. Instead, NATO tried to find new missions, such as in Afghanistan, for which the Alliance was not prepared, neither intellectually, nor doctrinally, nor from a strategic point of view.

Having a collective defense system in Europe is necessary, but the nuclear dimension of NATO tends to restrict its ability to engage a conventional conflict with a nuclear power. This is the problem we are witnessing in Ukraine. This is why Russia strives having a “glacis” between NATO and its territory. This would probably not prevent conflicts but would help keep them as long as possible in a conventional phase. This is why I think a non-nuclear European defense organization would be a good solution.

TP: Do you think that NATO’s proxy war with Russia serves to placate internal EU tensions, between conservative Central/Eastern Europe and the more progressive West?

JB: Some will certainly see it that way, but I think this is only a by-product of the US strategy to isolate Russia.

TP: Can you say something about how Turkey has positioned itself, between NATO and Russia?

JB: I have worked quite extensively with Turkey as I was in NATO. I think Turkey is a very committed member of the Alliance. What we tend to forget is that Turkey is at the crossroads between the “Christian World” and the “Islamic World;” it sits between two civilizations and in a key region of the Mediterranean zone. It has its own regional stakes.

The conflicts waged by the West in the Middle East significantly impacted Turkey, by promoting Islamism and stimulating tensions, in particular with the Kurds. Turkey has always tried to maintain a balance between its desire for Western-style modernization and the very strong traditionalist tendencies of its population. Turkey’s opposition to the Iraq War due to domestic security concerns was totally ignored and dismissed by the US and its NATO Allies.

Interestingly, when Zelensky sought a country to mediate the conflict, he turned to China, Israel and Turkey, but didn’t address any EU country.

TP: If you were to predict, what do you think the geopolitical situation of Europe and the world will look like 25 years from now?

JB: Who would have predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall? The day it happened, I was in the office of a National Security Adviser in Washington DC, but he had no clue about the importance of the event!

I think the decay of US hegemony will be the main feature of the next decades. At the same time, we will see a fast-growing importance of Asia led by China and India. But I am not sure Asia will “replace” the US strictly speaking. While US worldwide hegemony was driven by its military-industrial complex, Asia’s dominance will be in the research and technology area.

The loss of confidence in the US dollar may have significant impact on the US economy at large. I don’t want to speculate on future developments in the West, but a significant deterioration could lead the United States to engage in more conflicts around the world. This is something that we are seeing today, but it could become more important.

TP: What advice would you give people trying to get a clearer picture of what is really driving competing regional/national and global interests?

JB: I think the situation is slightly different in Europe than in North America.

In Europe, the lack of quality alternative media and real investigative journalism makes it difficult to find balanced information. The situation is different in North America where alternative journalism is more developed and constitutes an indispensable analytical tool. In the United States, the intelligence community is more present in the media than in Europe.

I probably could not have written my book based only on the European media. At the end of the day, the advice I would give is a fundamental one of intelligence work:

Be curious!

TP: Thank you so very much for your time—and for all your great work.

Featured image: Detail from the “Siege of Sevastopol,” by Franz Roubaud; painted 1902-1904.