Jonathan Steele: Understanding Putin’s narrative about Ukraine is the master key to this crisis / Oliver Stone: American Exceptionalism Is on Display in Ukraine / Mariia Shynkarenko: Not about NATO

With his incursion into Donetsk and Luhansk, Vladimir Putin has broken international law and destroyed the best negotiating track, the Minsk agreement. That is clear. What is also clear is why he did it. An increasing number of politicians and media analysts claim Putin may be mentally unstable, or that he is isolated in a bubble of yes-men who don’t warn him of dangers ahead. Many commentators say he is trying to restore the Soviet Union or recreate a Russian sphere of influence on his country’s borders, and that this week’s intrusion into eastern Ukraine is the first step towards an all-out attack on Kyiv to topple its government and even move against the Baltic states. None of these assertions is necessarily true.

Thousands join anti-war protests in Russia after Ukraine invasion

The Russian president is a rational man with his own analysis of recent European history. Coming from a former Communist, his blaming of Lenin for giving excessive scope to local nationalism in drawing up the Soviet constitution is remarkable. Similarly, his criticism of the way national elites destroyed the Soviet Union in its final years is sharp. Does he want to turn the clock back? People often quote his statement “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. But it bears pointing out that he enlarged on it later, saying: “Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.”

It is crucially important for those who might seek to end or ameliorate this crisis to first understand his mindset. What happened this week is that Putin lost his patience, and his temper. He is furious with the Ukraine government. He feels it repeatedly rejected the Minsk agreement, which would give the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk substantial autonomy. He is angry with France and Germany, the co-signatories, and the United States, for not pressing Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to implement them. He is equally angry with the Americans for not taking on board Russia’s security concerns about Nato’s expansion and the deployment of offensive missiles close to Russia’s borders. To those who say Nato is entitled to invite any state to join, Putin argues that the “open door” policy is conditioned by a second principle, which Nato states have accepted: namely that the enhancement of a state’s security should not be to the detriment of the security of other states (such as Russia). ....

Mariia Shynkarenko: Not about NATO‘Realists’ such as Stephen Walt suggest that had it not been for the American thirst to expand its security guarantees to ‘Russia’s traditional sphere of influence’ there would be no conflict right now. Sharing the sentiment, Thomas Graham and Rajan Menon propose a compromise, whereby the West and Russia would agree on a period of moratorium on NATO’s expansion. Elsewhere, Graham even proposes validating the ‘hard truth’ that Crimea is now part of Russia. This, however, is to misunderstand that the current crisis is not about NATO. It is about the fact that Ukraine has become the unlucky hostage of a paranoid autocrat....

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The True Costs of America’s All-Consuming War-Culture

Oliver Stone: American Exceptionalism Is on Deadly Display in Ukraine

Rather than help de-escalate the growing conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the Donbas region, it seems like the Biden administration and U.S. corporate media have been beating the war drums. The result of any war, needless to say, would be catastrophic for all involved and would have pernicious repercussions the world over.  

U.S. reports, according to “Scheer Intelligence” host Robert Scheer, have failed thus far to understand the perspective of Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin, and do so to the detriment of everything and everyone at stake. Film director Oliver Stone, however, offers a unique insight into the crisis given his experience interviewing the Russian leader a dozen times over two years for Stone’s Showtime series “The Putin Diaries.” The Oscar winner and Vietnam War veteran joins Scheer on this week’s show to discuss the critical nuances Americans are missing in Ukraine.  

“No one really knows what’s going on in the actual sense of being in Russia’s mind,” Stone tells Scheer, “but I do think, from the beginning, this has been a defensive maneuver from the Russian side. The United States and its allies in NATO have been provoking Russia [and] have been using Ukraine as bait, as a temperature-taker of that region [since 2014]. Now we’ve reached this place where they have threatened the Russians so much that they had to react, because I don’t think Putin could have stayed in office if he had not reacted.” 

Scheer argues that one of the most toxic elements at play in this international brinkmanship is nationalism, a force he warns against, especially in the form of American exceptionalism that views and pursues  the country’s interests as “global interests.” ..

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