This essay is part of a trilogy regarding Kremlin influence over the alternative libertarian media in the west.
Part 1: Putin’s Libertarians
I spent almost a week writing this long essay. It was exhausting, and personally important. I’ve been betrayed by my intellectual tribe — parts of it, anyway.
Last August, I met former Belarusian Presidential candidate Yaroslav Romanchuk at a libertarian conference near Lviv, Ukraine. He was somewhat of a Ron Paul figure, a businessman-turned-politician advocating radical free market reforms in Belarus. The consequences for being a libertarian in or near Russia are much more severe than in the United States. In 1994 he faced pressure: to stay in business he’d have to either join the mafia or join the government. He ended up abandoning the import-export business he had spent years building.
We joked about America’s RT (Russia Today) news service — that the United States government should sponsor a Russian language libertarian channel in Russia and Eastern Europe. The joke, which for us needed no explanation, was that governments can invoke principles of freedom when they undermine a rival government, while simultaneously behaving like a savage tyrant at home. This should not be difficult to understand.
I have been horrified by the libertarian coverage of events in Ukraine. Much of it has been such an uncritical parroting of Kremlin propaganda, so devoid of journalistic integrity, and such a betrayal of libertarian principles, that I can’t decide whether the authors, many of whom I’ve long admired, suffer a bias toward contrarian narratives or are on the Kremlin payroll.
One of the most ridiculous examples is Ry Dawson of rys2sense.com so carelessly echoing the Kremlin’s 70-year-old propaganda of labeling all opposition fascist, that he even called Ihor Kolomoiski a Nazi-worshiping fascist. Kolomoiski is a Ukrainian oligarch and the recently appointed governor of Dnipropetrovsk province. He is also not only Jewish, but the co-founder and president of the European Jewish Union.
Paul Craig Roberts attempted to de-legitimize Ukraine’s protests by praising the now-deposed Yanukovych regime and turning a blind eye to its barbarity. His praise includes the term “human-rights trained Ukrainian police”, this after the police had begun kidnapping injured protesters from hospitals. One such protester, Yuriy Verbytsky, a seismologist from the Geophysical Institute in Lviv and mountain climber was injured in the protests, hospitalized, kidnapped from the hospital, severely beaten, and left in the woods where he froze to death. “Human-rights-trained” police do not strip and humiliate captured protesters in -10 C degree weather.
The corruption and savagery of Ukraine’s police is neither secret nor new. Last summer, police stepped aside during a violent raid against the business interests of opposition politician. The business manager was later assassinated. This sort of corporate raiding has been fairly common, though most victims quietly give up their businesses without a fight. There was also this story of policemen connected to the Party of Regions raping a young woman and going free until a rioters sacked the police station, it was a tragic repeat of a brutal rape-murder that happened the year before, also by politically connected persons who were also released by Ukraine’s “human rights trained” police.
It’s one thing to oppose intervention. I’ve done so myself. It’s another to mischaracterize the barbarity of the Yanukovych regime in an attempt to discredit the uprising against it.
Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace has made the libertarian circuit — lewrockwell.com, the Tom Woods Show, the Scott Horton Show, and of course, RT. He makes a number of ridiculous claims, including the argument that the Russian military already had free reign in Crimea: “How can you annex and invade a territory in which you are already legally present?”
I really don’t know what to make of this. Can anyone help me? I find it equally unlikely that he is this disconnected from reality or that he is deliberately spreading disinformation. Are there other explanations?
The claim is analogous to having US soldiers remove their insignia, don balaclavas, surround and take over Cuban military bases, hi-jack Cuban Naval vessels, kill two Cuban soldiers, threaten civilians, and then claim the aggression is legal because the US military is leasing a military base in Guantanamo Bay by mutual agreement.
Justin Raimondo of Anti-War seemed to make a similar claim and offered this insanely aggressive polemic, against Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty who offered a very respectful and reasonable criticism of libertarian sympathy toward Putin.
USA Watchdog’s interview with Dmitry Orlov was so over-the-top biased, it seemed like The Onion: “Ukraine is a no-man’s land in the west, and Russian territories in the east. . . . [Western Ukraine] is an insolvent nugget of nothingness.” They repeatedly deleted my comments from the video. Incidentally, if any libertarians want to visit me in the heart of the “insolvent nugget of nothingness,” know that last year Reuters rated Lviv the #1 European City to see now.
I have respected and looked up to some of these authors for a long time. I corresponded with several of them. You’d think they’d consider me an asset. I’m Ukrainian and have lived in Ukraine for two years. I know the people, the culture and the historical context. My libertarian credentials are easily verified. I’ve written for the Mises Institute since 2010, the Daily Anarchist since 2011. I’ve spoken at the Property and Freedom Society and elsewhere. Appealing to them was like speaking to a brick wall. I was either ignored or lectured and scorned for my “blindness.”
Of course, you can accuse me of being biased. I’m Ukrainian, but I think the examples above are so glaring, they demonstrate there’s something strange happening in the libertarian media.
Also, I’ve never taken the Ukrainian nationalist or neo-con interventionist line. I’ve argued against Ukraine joining the EU or NATO, against western military involvement, and that Ukraine might be better off without Crimea and some eastern provinces despite my impression that slim to moderate majorities of these territories want to remain with Ukraine. See more evidence of my views here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Also, I am not alone. I have libertarian friends from Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Belarus and all over Ukraine, who, after years of looking to America’s libertarian community as a light of knowledge and inspiration, now feel utterly betrayed.
In the words of my good Russian friend and co-author Dr. Yuri Maltsev:
I am glad that there is a growing opposition to Putin’s regime in Russia itself. The list of eminent Russian intellectuals against aggression in Ukraine is much longer than those confused libertarians who support “Russian national interests” (Mises and Hayek would detest such an expression).
He has also written:
There is nothing libertarian in the neo-Stalinist Putin’s regime. Stalinism is an exact opposite of freedom. It is the same as to embrace Hitler just because he disliked FDR. Enemy of my enemy is not necessarily a friend . . . I think that socialists Timoshenko and Yushchenko [the Orange revolution politicians elected after mass protests in 2004] squandered Ukrainian prospects for freedom and prosperity and should be blamed for that, but the alternative (Putin-Yanukovich) proved to be way more disgusting.
Like all propaganda, the Kremlin propaganda regarding Ukraine relies on repetition of a small number of simple ideas. It hurts me to see so much of the libertarian media uncritically parroting them. There are three:
I – Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede.
II – The protests are orchestrated by foreign intelligence agencies.
III – Violent Ukrainian Nazis threaten ethnic minorities.
All three of these are wrong, and the last two are deeply hypocritical.
I. CRIMEANS VOTED OVERWHELMINGLY TO SECEDE.
I am all for secession, but what happened in Crimea wasn’t it.
– International journalists had their equipment seized. There is some evidence that phones, cameras and tablets from Norwegian and Polish journalists were passed to Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB.
– Russian documentary film makers posted this footage in which they were chased, harassed, threatened and shown the destroyed media equipment of other journalists.
– For the last several weeks, Vice magazine has managed to produce footage of confrontations with masked gunmen bent on secrecy. The “referendum” was shrouded in extreme secrecy.
So somebody please tell Ben Swann that it’s not quite accurate to lead with “Crimea overwhelmingly votes to leave Ukraine for Russia.” Again, I’m all for secession, but this wasn’t it. It was aggression, fraud and annexation.
– The fact that the result was 96% unanimous should be sufficient evidence of fraud. There is historic data on this issue. IRI conducted surveys in Crimea in 2009, 2011 and 2013:
40 to 45% of Crimeans considered their identity to be Russian.
23 to 33% favored joining Russia.
In 2013, 12% rated relations with Russia as one of the top three issues (from a list of 17).
Interestingly, as of 2013, 40% of Crimeans do not use the internet.
One can accuse IRI of being biased, though the study details their methodology. They are also consistent with Ukrainian surveys. The 2001 census, which measured ethnicity, not identity, showed that Crimea was 58% Russian. The census didn’t allow for “Crimean” as did the IRI surveys, hence the discrepancy.
Also, this wasn’t the first referendum in Crimea. During the referendum for Ukrainian independence in 1991, a narrow majority of Crimeans (54%) supported becoming part of independent Ukraine.
So, while the views of the substantial minority should certainly be taken into account, the 96% result is absurd, especially since 30% of Crimeans consider themselves either Crimean-Tartar or Ukrainian.
For what it’s worth, when Ukraine gave up the third largest Nuclear arsenal in the world in 1994, the agreement required Russia and other countries to recognize Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Part of Putin’s justification for betraying this agreement and annexing (this is the accurate term) Crimea was the protection of ethnic minorities. What would the Putinist libertarians say about the Catholic clergy and Tartars who are now refugees. See also, Ukrainian Catholics experiencing ‘total persecution’ in Crimea. How would Pat Buchanan square these headlines with his fawning coverage of Russia’s Christian values?
What would the cheerleaders of Crimean “secession” say about the recently passed Russian law which goes into effect next month and forbids “Public calls to actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.” So for example, starting next month, if Ukrainians in Russia’s Kuban region, who outnumber Russians, even spoke about secession, they’d face prosecution.
I’d also be curious to hear them comment on the two brutal wars Russia waged to prevent secession of Chechnya in 1994 and 1999. It would distinguish principles from Putinism.
II. THE PROTESTS ARE ORCHESTRATED BY FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES.
Paul Craig Roberts describes the protesters as “pawns” who would “place their country in the hands of the IMF so that it can be looted like Latvia.”
Does he not realize how dramatically higher the standard of living is in Latvia than in Ukraine? The desire for a better life is not a CIA conspiracy.
Remember, I’m against Ukraine joining the EU. I think Ukraine can find greater freedom by embracing its historic role as a borderland, but the preference for EU membership over Russian-puppet kleptocracy is completely rational. Compare any post-Soviet EU nation (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), to any post-Soviet non-EU nation (Ukraine, Belarus) and the difference in quality of life is staggering.
I have no illusions that western intelligence agencies aren’t heavily involved here. I can’t imagine a scenario in which they wouldn’t be. Can you?
It is correct to say that Western intelligence/EU/NATO/globalists/World Bankers have worked to bolster and direct Ukraine’s revolution. It is incorrect to claim they orchestrated a coup.
Consider this historical context:
Somewhere between 3 and 12 million Ukrainians were exterminated by the Soviet Union in a single man-made famine from 1932-1933, and the Great Famine was neither the first nor the last great slaughter of Ukrainians. In western Ukraine, armed resistance to the Soviet Union, arguably the most brutal regime to have ever exited, lasted until 1955 — for a full decade after WWII ended. This was at a time when the United States provided material aid to the Soviet Union, so obviously the resistance was homegrown.
Is it so hard to believe that the inheritors of this legacy are resisting what they perceive as the kleptocracy descended from the Soviet Union which is empowered by a former KGB agent-turned President of Russia?
The evidence for western involvement is as follows:
1) An American-made viral video. I agree. This is troubling. I have criticized the super slick, victimology 101, “I am a Ukrainian” viral video both before and after discovering it was made by American film maker Ben Moses. (What the hell was doing in Kyiv?)
2) $5 Billion dollars. Paul Craig Roberts was technically correct when he stated that $5 Billion has been spend in Ukraine for the highly suspicious purpose of “promoting Democracy.” Stefan Molyneux repeated this figure. Neither of them mentioned it had been spent since 1991. Politifact.com concluded that a direct connection between the $5 billion and the protests is a “distortion.” Their analysis breaks down how the money was spent.
3) Victoria Nuland’s phone call choosing the opposition. I posted it on my blog with commentary. She seems to choose Arseniy Yatsenyuk as her favorite opposition politician. This is troubling because he was then appointed Prime Minister for the interim government which is to work until after elections in May.
This is evidence of foreign powers hi-jacking the revolution, not orchestrating it. From the moment opposition politicians expressed support for the protests, Ukrainians have been circulating memes ridiculing them. Vitali Klitschko was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher on Maidan when he attempted to address to protesters. I personally attended the funeral of one of the killed protesters. His fellow protester dedicated almost an entire few-minute eulogy to admonishing the opposition politicians. “It wasn’t for them that we sacrificed,” he said.
It seems obviously that the opposition politicians have been were playing catchup to the protests, rather than being their driving force.
As Ukraine’s new government evolves, keep an eye on Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Yulia Tymmoshenko. In my estimation, those are the favorite candidates of the globalists who want to use Ukraine as a foil against Russia. Curiously, Tymmoshenko is probably also the one favored by Putin, because of previous dealings they had together. I’m happy to see Ukrainians deeply skeptical about both of them.
4) As the title of Paul Craig Robert’s article states: US and EU Are Paying Ukrainian Rioters and Protesters.
One reader wrote: “My wife, who is of Ukrainian nationality, has weekly contact to her parents and friends in Zhytomyr [NW Ukraine]. According to them, most protesters get an average payment of 200-300 grivna, corresponding to about 15-25 euro. As I additionally heard, one of the most active agencies and ‘payment outlets’ on EU side is the German ‘Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’, being closely connected to the CDU, i.e. Mrs. Merkel’s party.”
Johannes Loew of the Internet site elynitthria.net/ writes: “I am just back from Ukraine (I live in Munich/Germany) and I was a lot at the Maidan. Most of those people get only 100 grivna. 300 is for Students.”
The wife of an anonymous reader, plus what seems like an expletive-filled pro-Putin website seems like very shaky evidence on which to headline a widely circulated article.
I would not be surprised if somebody was on the payroll of Western intelligence, but there’s little evidence. There’s also a lot of evidence of the sentiment being genuine. How do I know?
My lead software developer traveled to Kyiv every time violence flared up. He, like many Ukrainians, considered it his duty. After major bloodshed started on February 20th, I texted him: “Should I wish you a safe journey?” He texted me back: “You’re late. I’m already on Maidan.”
He owns an SUV and a three-story home where he lives with his wife and two children. We go skiing together. He’s part of Ukraine’s miniscule middle class and not the type of person who’d be motivate by the thirty Euros which the wife of some anonymous reader of Mr. Roberts insists is motivating the protesters. Ridiculous!
You can also read through the profiles of the deceased protesters and find scientists, university lecturers and all sorts of young professionals.
I have also been to maidan numerous times and have enough very close friends among the protesters, friends who confide in me. I don’t doubt that somebody is being subsidized, but it’s not the norm. My friends have been investing their own money in travel, body armor, and days off from work. It was a grass roots protests with people from all walks of society, including women, old people, and at least one insanely courageous 16 year old lying to his mother about his safety while protesters are killed just meters away.
By contrast, the anti-Maidan protests and, more recent, the pro-Russian ones are overwhelmingly (though not entirely) military-aged men. There have been instances of them discussing their pay — raw footage here, and here, and possibly here.
The supposedly spontaneous pro-Russian protesters in the east were heavily armed and took hostages. When in the history of spontaneous, grassroots protests have the protesters taken hostages?
They numbered between dozens and hundreds in Donetsk and Kharkiv whose populations exceed a million, or about 500,000 in the case of Luhansk. Some of the arrested leaders had Russian passports. Also, here.
5) Snipers were hired by the opposition. On February 20th, snipers began killing unarmed protesters deep inside the protest camps raising the death toll to about 100. Until then, violence had been relegated to the area of the barricades facing government buildings.
It seems the evidence for this is a phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet in which they say that the bullet wounds suffered by the 13 police who were killed are the same as those suffered by the protesters. As far as I know, that’s it.
I posted the conversation with commentary on my blog.
The evidence to the contrary includes the arrest of 12 special policemen, a Russian FSB colonel who admitted to being in Kyiv during the escalation, and apparent photos of SBU agents preparing for the slaughter.
I don’t know what happened, though the preponderance of the evidence seems to suggest either government- or Russian-backed snipers. The importance of this is exaggerated in my opinion. The moral authority of the protesters and illegitimacy of the government was establish long before the bloody escalation on February 20th.
6) The US sponsored anti-government media. I think this one is 100% accurate. The best detailing of this influence I’ve read is from Daniel McAdam’s colleague at the RPIP, Steve Weissman. His article details how much was spent on which media sources. The article is great, though completely incongruous to its title “Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev.” There’s plenty to criticize in this, but let’s be precise. Sponsoring media is very different from “put[ting] together a Coup.” The article also acknowledges that US foreign policy toward Ukraine “was – and is – only minimally about overthrowing Ukraine’s duly elected government.”
The US’s sponsoring of dissident media is also only half the story. There are also news sources in Ukraine that vigorously promote the Russian perspective.
I would not describe the Tea Party (about which I’ve co-authored a book, incidentally) as orchestrated by Russian intelligence just because RT supports libertarian ideas in the United States, and I would not describe Ukraine’s protests are orchestrated by Western intelligence just because they sponsor news media which promotes democracy, anti-corruption, and measured economic liberalism.
Let’s also discuss the hypocrisy:
In addition to the Russian nationals taking over government buildings in Eastern Ukraine, the whole Yanukovych regime, now-deposed, was much more of a foreign operation than the protests against it, though it was an operation of the Russian FSB. The fact that Russian intelligence is active in all levels of Ukrainian government is common knowledge.
In the context of the protests, Russian media used the same actress in five different locations posing as a citizen concerned about the protests. (Which is your favorite hairstyle?)
Here is a story from the St. Petersburg Times about how the Kremlin employs professional internet propagandists. (Maybe some will visit Daily Anarchist?)
A Russian reporter who was beaten by anti-Maidan hooligans, whom, ironically, he was trying to heroicize, claimed later that he was attacked by Maidan protesters. In February, Russian sponsored news pulled the plug on a Crimean politician mid-sentence when he began talking about the corruption of the now-deposed Yanukovych regime.
I know about very obvious use of provocateurs among the protesters from first hand accounts. Here is a detailed analysis.
We libertarians are supposed to be the smart ones, the rational ones. It should not be beyond our capacity to understand that two rival intelligence agencies are at work in Ukraine.
III. VIOLENT UKRAINIAN NAZIS THREATEN ETHNIC MINORITIES
It is wrong to characterize the protests as “violent.” They remained as peaceful as typical Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street protests even after five protesters were killed and dozens kidnapped. It was mostly people singing songs and resisting attempts to remove them from Kyiv’s central square. No stores were smashed or looted despite this being the most expensive commercial real estate in Ukraine. Alcohol was forbidden among the protesters.
On January 16th the Yanukovych government, without following legislative procedure, passed legislation nearly identical to a Russian law which criminalized virtually every form of protest. Protesters began receiving SMSs from their cellular phone companies telling them they’ve been listed as having taken part in illegal mass disturbances. This was a pivotal moment where Ukraine could have either become a Belarus-style dictatorship, or insisted on deposing the government. They made the right decision.
The evidence for the protesters being violent fascists and neo-nazis seems to be photos depicting SS symbols among the protesters and the opposition politician Oleh Tyahnybok. You can find a typical collection of photographs and accusations here, though the guys with the swastika tattoos are Russian, not Ukrainian. The “I’m Ruskie” sweatshirt gives it away. More on that hypocrisy later.
First, realize that for seventy years, the Kremlin’s domestic propaganda has centered on convincing Russians that they are surrounded by Nazis poised to invade, and that the only defense is offense. This propaganda did not end with the Soviet Union. Russia imagines Nazis everywhere, and when it can’t find them, it creates them:
– In 2002, Johan Backman, a spokesman for the Finnish Anti-Fascist committee accused the Foreign Ministry of Finland of Russophobia and racism. He had earlier claimed that during WWII, tiny Finland planned an ethnic cleansing of Russians in Karelia in order to create a Finno-Ugric superpower, possibly stretching as far as the Ural Mountains. He is very popular on Russian television. In March 2009, the newspaper Eesti Ekspress reported a link between him and the well-known Finnish neo-nazi Risto Teinonen, both of them being connected to the alleged former KGB agent Vladimir Ilyashevich.
– In 2007, Estonians were accused of being fascists and nazi sympathizers when they relocated (not even fully removed!) a statue from their capital celebrating their Soviet “liberators.” About 17% of Estonia’s population was deported to Siberia by their Soviet “liberators.”
– Here is an article by a Lithuanian writer about how every attempt by Baltic States to distance themselves from their Soviet past is met with accusations of fascism and Nazism. “In 1988, the then Lithuanian SSR Supreme Council announced the tricolor as the official symbol of the Lithuanian SSR, and Russian comedian Mikhail Zhvanetksyi joked: ‘What is going on – Lithuania returned the fascist flag.’ I remember the audience applauded after the joke.”
– Here is an article about Russian intelligence agents creating “Nazi” groups in Finland and Estonia:
“About 10 pro-Russia activists have created 5 organizations that are active in Estonia, these organizations all include the same people”, reported the chief commissioner. In Finland, another group consisting of 5 Russia’s agents, including the notorious Nazis Backman and Molari, created 5 organizations with the same 5 agents.
“We are taking about a small core group of pro-Russia’s individuals, who have created various organizations. Each of them typically consists of the same people belonging to different organizations.
– Here is a story about how during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004, the pro-Russian regime orchestrated a cartoonishly explicit “Nazi” march in support the opposition candidate to discredit him.
– This study of ideology in Belarus attempts to conflate Belorussian nationalism with Nazi collaboration during WWII.
– The pro-western regime of Saakashvili in Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, losing two provinces, was regularly accused of fascism by the Russian media. You can see cached stories and commentary in a Google search which have since been removed.
For the last 70 years, anybody in or near Russia’s sphere of influence who attempted to leave was accused of fascism and Nazism. This propaganda is nothing new.
I have encountered its effectiveness here in Lviv, the western Ukrainian city where I live. Two separate friends told me about phone calls from relatives in Moscow asking whether it’s true that in Lviv people have begun beating people in the streets for speaking Russian. Another friend who works in a hostel told me a Russian family stayed there for a week, barely leaving their room except to the grocery store because, she later discovered, they feared Ukrainian fascists would attack them. These accounts are so divorced from reality, I wouldn’t believe them if they weren’t first-hand accounts.
Russian is spoken every day in Lviv. One of the city’s street musicians often plays his guitar and sings in Russian in the city center. When the government was toppled and the police briefly disbanded, volunteers guarded the Russian consulate to prevent provocations.
So, the propaganda is old and effective, at least domestically. Now let’s look at the evidence.
Oleh Tyahnybok, the opposition politician often used as proof that he, as well as protesters are frothing at the mouth to begin murdering Russians and Jews isn’t a very good Nazi. He has repeatedly made statements about respecting ethnic minorities and says Israel is a good model of nationalism for Ukraine to follow. Also, he has very little standing with the protesters. He’s been an outsider with little support. His political party keeps trying to jump in front of the parade and failing in humiliating ways, like when wounded Maidan protesters slammed his party for falsely claiming them as members. Also, it’s widely rumored that he is sponsored by Russian interests for the purpose of radicalizing the opposition, though I’m unaware of any concrete proof.
The pictures of protesters with SS symbols (not swastikas) are real, unfortunately. WWII in eastern Europe was not the good versus evil struggle Americans typically imagine. Up to 25% of all Ukrainians had been exterminated by the Soviet Union in the two decades prior to the war. Of course there was massive collaboration.
There was collaboration from Russians too. Red Army artillery officer and Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epic history of the Soviet gulag system includes testimony about how his Red Army unit faced much more frantic and desperate resistance from ethnically Russian Nazi units than from German ones.
But while this legacy was stamped out in Russia, in Ukraine, where armed resistance continued until 1955, it lives on.
See Timothy Snyder’s book Bloodlands to understand the plight of people trapped between Hitler and Stalin. This history is controversial and the subject of endless debate, but consider this account from the Jewish magazine Tablet:
So while Bandera and his men were responsible for killing Jews, their ideology wasn’t fundamentally anti-Semitic; rather, it was pro-Ukrainian, and anti- everyone who appeared to be in the way of that, which included the pro-Soviet Jews. . . . Of the 63 attempted and actual assassinations carried out by Ukrainian nationalists in the interwar period, only one was directed against a Jew.
Much to the delight of the Kremlin, a very (very, very) small minority of Ukrainian protesters don SS symbols as a symbol of resistance to Moscow. They do so because the Galician SS Division is viewed as a heroic last stand against the Soviets, who, I’ll remind you again, exterminated up to 25% of all Ukrainians in the two decades prior to WWII.
I’m not saying this is the complete narrative of the division, but one can understand why they garner sympathy:
– The division formed in 1943 when it was absolutely clear the Nazis were going to lose the war. The Division was supposed to form the core of an eventual Ukrainian Army. This followed the model from twenty years earlier when the “Sich Riflemen” of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Army formed the core of a professional Ukrainian army which fought first the Polish Army, then the Bolsheviks for the creation of a Ukrainian state, losing eventually on both fronts, but allowing for the declaration of an albeit short-lived Ukrainian state in 1918.
– The SS division formed with two stipulations: 1. they only be used to fight the advancing Red Army and 2. they be the only SS Division allowed to have priests. The latter is symbolically significant because when the Soviets first took over Western Ukraine (then-Poland) in 1939, they immediately slaughtered all the priests (and deported all the seminary students).
– The Galician SS Division, about 13,000 men from western Ukraine, suffered approximately 70-80% killed in action in the Battle of Brody which goes down in history as a mere speed bump along the Red Army’s advance to Berlin. At Brody they were encircled by the Red Army’s First Ukrainian Front.
– One survivor of the division, Hryhoriy Hevryk, joined the Red Army and became an official hero of the Soviet Union for actions in Poland.
History is not as simple as Hollywood would have you believe, especially in what were “the Bloodlands.”
Much more important than arguing over history is today’s charge from the Kremlin echoed by Ry Dawson, Stefan Molyneux, Paul Craig Roberts, Daniel McAdams, Justin Raimondo, Scott Horton and other prominent libertarians that the protests are “fascists,” neo-nazis,” and determined to harm Russians, Jews and other ethnic minorities.
Name calling is a tactic of the left. I would love to hear these authors articulate what exactly they think the protesters will do and what the evidence is. Their concern for Russians and Jews doesn’t seem to be shared by the actual Russians and Jews closest to the protests.
– There are plenty of videos like this one of ethnically Russian Maidan protesters talking about this propaganda. They fought and bled alongside the Ukrainian protesters to topple the Yanukovych regime.
– Here is well known Russian Nationalist and historian Boris Myronov explaining that Stepan Bandera was not a fascist.
– Here the head rabbi of Kyiv explains the difference between nationalism and Nazism in the context of this accusation.
– Here, another Kyiv rabbi who lived in the capital for the past 20 years discusses the protests. He says there’s no serious antisemitism in Ukraine and that it’s worse in Russia.
– Here is an open letter from the Jewish community of Ukraine defending the reputation of the protests.
I cannot imagine more credible evidence against the propaganda being repeated by so many libertarians.
Now lets talk about hypocrisy:
If Putin was concerned by fascists, he could find one within arm’s reach. His adviser, Aleksandr Dugin uses the word “fascism” in his vision for what Russia should aspire to.
There are hundreds of Youtube videos of violent neo-nazis in Russia itself.
Two of the pro-Russian organizers in Easter Ukraine, Mika Ronkainen and Pavel Gubarev, both Russian citizens, posted pictures on social media of themselves in Nazi uniforms or with faux swastika banners.
What is the evidence that the protesters or new government is hostile to ethnic minorities? All of their animosity was directed at toppling a corrupt government.
No pro-Russian protesters have been harmed. On the other hand, here is a heartbreaking subtitled eyewitness account of the violence in Donetsk when pro-Ukrainian protesters were attacked by the pro-Russian counter protest. They were forced to kneel, urinated on, and two were stabbed to death. Here is some raw footage. The deceased, including 22 year old Dmytro Chernyavskiy, were Donetsk natives. Their attackers seemed to be foreigners to the city. They did not recognize the anthem of the local football team.
After the murders, the Kremlin, from its alternate reality, made a specific announcement about protecting Russians in Donetsk.
It seems this brutality, which occurred in early to mid March is the reason the separatists agitation of the last few days in Eastern Ukraine has gotten so little support. In cities of over a million residents, only between dozens and hundreds of people stood in support of the separatists. There are videos which seem to show their supporters getting paid (here).
In Luhansk, the heavily armed and well-equipped separatists took 60 hostages. At the time of this writing, 51 have been released, but the standoff continues.
As I noted above, Pro-Ukrainian activists were kidnapped in Crimea, and Tartars and Catholics have been fleeing the region since armed men with balaclavas and no insignia on their uniforms arrived to “protect ethnic minorities.”
There has been no analogous violence toward pro-Russian demonstrators from pro-Maidan or pro-Ukrainian activists who so many libertarians have been accusing of fascism, neo-nazism, and hooliganism.
No Russian language books have been burned. In Crimea and Kharkiv, Ukrainian language books were burned.
Much fuss has been made about restricting the use of the Russian language. This concerns official government business only. The law requiring Ukrainian was widely ignored from 1991 until 2010. In 2010, an official exception was made for Russian. The new government proposed repealing this exception, but the president vetoed this. So, no change.
This is what causes Justin Raimondo to write: “One of the very first acts of the Ukrainian coup leaders after chasing out the duly elected government of Viktor Yanukovich was to outlaw the Russian language as an official “second language” in all regions of Ukraine.”
It never became a law, and it only concerns official government business. It doesn’t preclude use of Russian on television, in schools, or anywhere else. In some parts of Ukraine, almost all schools are Russian language.
By contrast, in Russia there are no Ukrainian schools whatsoever – not even in the Kuban region where Ukrainians outnumber Russians. In Moscow, in 2010, 50 Ukrainian language fiction books were seized from a library because of “ethnic radicalism.”
This hypocrisy repeats itself in every country along Russia’s border. Russia’s professional agitators will demand full status and accommodation for the Russian minority language, while within Russia itself, minority languages are considered “ethnic radicalism,” and story books get removed from libraries.
In the words of an Estonian friend:
What infuriates me most is that this is best example we have of semi-libertarian revolution where force was used and the goal of overthrowing the government was reached. We have TONS to learn from this. Instead, some of the libertarians start calling these people fascists and puppets of West (verbatim Kremlin phraseology, sic!). There was (and there had to be) wide support in society for Maidan protests, otherwise they would have stopped in mid December or so. And they wouldn’t have gotten any further even with millions of € from the west. Instead there was wide logistical support from civil society in Kiev (not even the hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism, which is more in Lviv) to enforce the barricades, feed the protesters, give medical support, etc. People wouldn’t do that for 10$ or 100$, they would do that for freedom and for better tomorrow. . . . .
My understanding of politics is greatly helped by 2 things that I have been lucky enough to experience:
1. Life in Soviet Union.
2. Experiencing social & political revolution first hand (Estonian Singing Revolution).
From first I learned how boldly state can lie and that people in power can resort to anything to stay in power. Also, of course I learned about the utter disaster that is socialism (it’s so bad, it’s not even funny). And while I do not want to conflate Soviet Union with Russia or Russian culture, there is way too many similarities between the leadership, TV and mentality in SU and current Russian Federation.
From second I learned what societal change looks like. It is something hard to describe, it is a time of chaos, of hope, of crazy events and uncertain future. Not something you want to live in permanently but still an exiting time to be around. And I hope this has given me some understanding of political events in other places and times.
This gives me (and others with similar fate) some edge over Westerners and also Western libertarians who don’t have that experience (not all of them of course). Some of them don’t recognize revolution from street protest and they also don’t seem to have any immunization against Soviet lies and propaganda. I hope this might explain some strange attitudes and claims from people who I presumed think in similar ways to me.
This is a very generous perspective. I hope he’s right, that libertarians, at least most of them, are simply mistaken.
tldr: Libertarian coverage of Ukraine has been characterized by misinformation, rote repetition of Kremlin propaganda, and the abandonment of journalist integrity and libertarian principles. Here’s the proof.
Originally published here: https://dailyanarchist.com/2014/04/10/putins-libertarians/