Whether Ukraine’s state officials and oligarchs always deserve our sympathy, we leave for the reader to decide — though as a nation Ukrainians have been beyond heroic. Even eastern Ukraine, its most Russian-friendly part, was not as easily cowed by Putin as Russia’s population is (and was) by the Kremlin.Yuri Felshtinsky and Michael Stanchev
In their book, Blowing Up Ukraine, Felshtinsky and Stanchev describe the evolution of Ukraine from a corrupt Soviet republic to a nation struggling toward freedom. The authors wrote, “One could dismiss Ukraine’s extraordinary and complex evolution … as ultimately irrelevant to the world at large. But this would be a mistake. We uncover the patterns of behavior with which Russia intends to treat the rest of the world if given the chance. In addition, we show how over two decades of mounting frustration, Putin has become obsessed with Ukraine — comparable with Stalin’s mania about Poland.”
Russia’s current political leaders are almost entirely from the “armed detachment of the Communist Party”; that is, the KGB. Those who are not, are nonetheless militants that in a normal country would be considered fringe lunatics. Their democratic mimicry is a Marxist caricature of how Western governments function. The long-time head of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, the late Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was often heard publicly threatening Poland with nuclear weapons. The one-time Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Russia’s military industry, Mr. Dmitry Rogozin, has repeatedly threatened eastern Europe. He also wrote a forward to a book, Alaska Betrayed and Sold: The History of a Palace Conspiracy, by Ivan Mironov. In this forward, Rogozin seconded Mironov’s claim that the sale of Alaska to the United States was a betrayal. Rogozin believes in “the historical and judicial right of Russia for the return of the lost colonies, Alaska and the Aleutian islands, over which the Russian flag flew 150 years ago.”
It is not only Ukraine that Russia’s leaders want to conquer. Felshtinsky and Stanchev say that Putin’s circle have an insatiable appetite for land and plunder. Trained under the Soviet system, with Marxist-Leninist ideas stuffed into their heads, they think only of destruction and spoliation. They are not builders. These people are collectively vindictive. The best example is the bombardment of the Russian-speaking Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The city was to be punished for opposing Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Russian territory. Last year, citizens of the city huddled in their homes, trying to survive the bombardment, unable to flee because the Russians were known to attack civilian vehicles.
Having studied the Russian elite, Felshtinsky and Stanchev believe that a nuclear blackmail scheme has long been part of the plan. This is no ordinary nuclear blackmail. Perhaps it is sensational, but the authors suggest the Kremlin will use nuclear weapons for shock effect. The Russian leaders, of course, will deny responsibility for any nuclear attacks that do occur. This idea is deeply ingrained in the authors’ analysis, based as it is on interviews with oligarchs and other insiders. As this book was published months ago, there is a remarkably successful prediction found in its pages:
One look at Belarus clarifies that the nuclear stage of Operation Novorossiya has started. Unlike Ukraine, the Kremlin has successfully turned Belarus into a vazal state. Its President Alexander Lukashenko, neighbor to Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, rescinded his country’s non-nuclear status on 27 February 2022, three days after Russia’s invasion….
Why was this done? What was the strategic thinking behind this move? According to the authors, “Belarus never dismantled its nuclear infrastructure and can now re-arm ‘itself’ with long-range nuclear weapons as a ‘sovereign’ nation.” This is the perfect basis for the aforementioned nuclear blackmail. They write, “It is a bluff at this stage, but it is no coincidence that this very public intimidation coincides with the very public war on Ukraine. With Putin’s words, it is only a matter of time before they are much more than that.”
The Kremlin strategists want to give the future use of nuclear weapons “momentum.” According to the authors, Moscow wants to appear reluctant to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus. With crocodile tears they will lament the wicked behavior of NATO that necessitates such measures. Belarusians “may be killed in retaliation,” say Felshtinsky and Stanchev, “but once the nuclear precedent is established, the clock cannot be dialled back.”
More recently, In an interview with Jonathon Fink in April, Mr. Felshtinsky explained Moscow’s intention to use nuclear weapons based in Belarus, so that NATO’s expected conventional retaliation would fall on Belarus instead of Russia. He added,
I am slightly puzzled by the absence of a reaction — any reaction — from Belarus. Because, again, everybody there, like state TV … discuss with smiles how they will destroy Poland and Lithuania with nuclear strikes. That’s fine, but no one is asking the question, well, ‘Aren’t they going to retaliate?’ … No one is worried, somehow.
It is understandable that Putin doesn’t care about Belarus, says Felshtinsky, but how could normal people tolerate such representations in their media? The idea, of course, of nuclear strikes on Poland, would be to interdict military assistance to Ukraine (which largely comes through Poland). In terms of this kind of insanity, Felshtinsky explained,
There are some leaders in history that are so blind with the absolutely crazy idea of destroying an opponent … in the end it damages them…. That’s what Putin is doing now with Ukraine. He is so much into this idea of taking control of Ukraine, that he basically doesn’t understand that if he isolates Russia entirely from Europe … then the only partner … might be … China.
Of course, that is not a problem when you are a closet Marxist-Leninst. The destructive dream of tearing down all that is, to remake the world and become a god oneself, has been the temptation of modernity. Men who play at being the saviors of mankind are invariably destroyers. This is a general rule which, looking back at history, is verified again and again.
Therefore, we should not be surprised if top Russian leaders, like former President Dmitry Medvedev, sound like maniacs who are ready to push the button. Putin’s right hand, Mr. Petrushev, recently gave an interview in which he sounded completely detached from reality. “It’s unbelievably primitive,” says Felshtinsky, “and stupid.”
Here we have brutality in the form of a farcical version of Stalin. one might characterize this as “all the brutality and none of the brains.” Where, exactly, do they think such a farce will lead? Do they imagine that the use of nuclear weapons will frighten the West into capitulation? In such circumstances, human nature is sorted rather quickly. While many will prove cowardly, the rest will stand up. This is how Ukraine has managed to stand. Readers should be reminded of Napoleon’s dictum that morale is to numbers as three is to one.
As they are morally empty, Russia’s leaders are led, step by step, to the nuclear option. “Trusting nuclear weapons to Belarus,” says Felshtinsky, “for them, might sound as a very reasonable way to correct the situation.”
And who are “they” in this context? Felshtinsky says that Putin is not actually a dictator, for he is beholden to a kind of Politburo. If you take Putin down, he says, you do not take the system down.
Russia is in a difficult position, of course. Europe is rearming. Russia is sanctioned. The Ukrainian Army has defeated the Russian offensive and is now pushing back. “This leads to a ridiculous situation,” says Felshtinsky. “I tell you what Putin would do. He will not say that it is Russians who are controlling these nuclear weapons [in Belarus].” Of course, Putin cannot give the weapons to Belarus without violating the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. So he has a dilemma. If Belarus cannot control and fire the weapons, who does?
“[Here] is what is going to happen next. On one particular day, he will inform the world that, you know, Ukrainians … took control of [the] nuclear weapons and fired … those nuclear weapons pretending that they are Russians to provoke a conflict between Russia and NATO. So they would never accept the blame for the strike. That is what’s going to happen next; so, again, I would say that this is extremely dangerous.
Given that Felshtinsky outlined this scenario in April, we now look back on the bizarre events of last weekend and scratch our heads. It is now acknowledge that Mr. Prigozhin, the instigator of a mutiny against the Kremlin, is in Belarus. It is reported that 5,000 of his Wagner mercenaries are headed there. On Monday Putin gave a speech in which he said Wagner mercenaries were free to go to Belarus.
Is not Felshtinsky’s scenario being engendered by Putin “allowing” the Wagner troops into Belarus?
What are we really looking at here?
I’m afriad this plan was discussed with China, as well. And I do not think that the fact that Lukashenko flew to Peking [Beijing] some time ago … had nothing to do with this. I do not think that the visit of Xi to Moscow recently, again, had nothing to do with this discussion. At least Putin announced the transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus soon after Xi left. They mentioned something about the next hundred years of unbelievable history, which both countries should wait for. So, I think this plan was discussed.Yuri Felshtinsky
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