The date is February 24th, 2005. That is the day when George W. Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin with concerns regarding the democracy in Russia at the time.
Both parties addressed many things following a summit in Slovakia. Close ties and common ground were among the many topics discussed. They also shared a common goal that neither Iran or North Korea should be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons.
Despite this apparent friendship at the time, later on Bush shared his concerns publicly by telling a joint news conference that “Democracies have certain things in common…a rule of law and protection of minorities and a free press and a viable political opposition.”
“I was able to share my concerns about Russia’s commitment in fulfilling these universal principles. I did so in a constructive and friendly way,” He said.
Even then, there were growing concerns in the West that Russia was moving back away from democracy, especially given Putin’s tough policies toward political opponents and the press.
The Russian President however, said something then that he often says today on a regular basis…that fears from the West are unfounded. He said, “Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy,” and that “any return to totalitarianism would be impossible,” at that point.
Fast forward to 2014, following protests from Ukrainians who sought closer ties to Europe, when “little green men” began appearing on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Standard issue uniforms, but without any official insignia, were the only way to identify them at first. When questions were raised regarding a link to the Kremlin and the troops on the ground, sharp denial was all that was received in response.
Weeks later, with the sweeping stroke of an ink pen, Crimea had been annexed as part of the Russian Federation. Putin had managed to steal a large piece of territory, which Ukrainians depended on financially, without firing a single shot. However, Putin did later say himself that nuclear weapons would have been used to accomplish that goal, should the need had arisen. But this was just the start of Putin’s imperialistic ambitions, which will continue far beyond Ukraine’s once sovereign borders.
A New Type Of War
Following the ousting of former President Yanukovych and the Annexation of Crimea, protests began to break out in Donetsk, a major city which is located on Russia’s border with Ukraine. But these were not like the protestors in Kyiv who were merely seeking closer ties with the European Union. The protests were violent, and later came to be defined as a Ukrainian civil war according to the media. But those leading the rebellion were not Ukrainians. Instead, they were Russian soldiers masquerading as such.
The Kremlin continued to deny any ties to the violence unfolding in Eastern Ukraine, despite the abundance of evidence that later accumulated to the contrary. “There are no Russian troops in Ukraine,” Putin maintained.
Western media paid little, if any attention at first, at least up until Malaysian flight MH-17 was shot down using Russian anti-aircraft weapons. The BUK missile system, part of the re-enforcements that Putin had sent to help fight back against a procuring Ukrainian Military, had mistaken a commercial airliner for hardware that had been sent by Kyiv.
Following the moment of impact from the BUK missile, a series of tweets were released on Twitter championing the shoot down of assets from Ukraine’s military. But the boasting was short-lived upon the revelation, at which point any and all data regarding the incident was wiped from existence. Russia had accused the Ukrainian military themselves of shooting down MH-17, despite growing evidence that continues to prove otherwise to this day.
It soon became realized by most in the West, and the World for that matter, that this was no ordinary civil war. The term “hybrid war” came to be a common reference to the situation in Ukraine.
The Russian people really had no choice but to believe the fake news being transmitted over the airwaves by State-run media. A few opponents in Russia, who investigated the truth about Ukraine, did make strong attempts to expose Putin’s true actions in the region, but many of which were later found to be murdered prior to making the revelations public.
The narrative, or propaganda might be a more accurate word actually, was that officials in Kyiv were acting as “Juntas”, a term Russians have often used to define Nazi’s of a sort. It was claimed that these Juntas were killing ethnic Russians in the East, and that Putin being the hero that he claims himself to be, must step in and help those in crisis. The propaganda carried out by Russian State-run media was so extreme that it quickly went from twisted facts to flat out lies. It even went as far as video taping the deaths of innocent women and children in Donetsk, victims that died at the hands of “pro-Russian” soldiers, only to air the footage with blame being cast upon the Ukrainian government.
To aid the ethnic Russian population inside the Donetsk region, Putin ordered several “aid convoys” to the rescue. Objections struck harshly from Kyiv as the trucks began crossing the Russian border into Ukraine, but they went mostly ignored by the Russian Federation. The OSCE, who had been sent to Ukraine to observe the situation, were only permitted to inspect a small fraction of the vehicles that many in the West suspected were being used for the purpose of transporting additional military hardware, instead of the much needed food and other supplies needed by the population.
Even before these trucks began rolling, it was highly suspected by NATO that Russia was moving military assets across the border to aid these “rebels”. This was primarily because the groups were too well armed to have made gains without some type of assistance. Even if it were true that soldiers were merely making use of weapons acquired from the spoils of war, evidence that surfaced soon after pointed to the use of more recent hardware, aside from the old Soviet style arms stockpiled in Ukraine’s weapon depots. NATO satellite feeds later confirmed the accuracy of these reports.
Because Ukraine wasn’t an official member of the NATO alliance, assistance was therefore limited to training, financial and political support from its westernmost allies. The United States and its allies, including Canada and others, made great but limited attempts to resolve the conflict without the use of arms. Non-lethal support was sent in the form of medical kits, uniforms, boots, etc. Canada contributed very much in the form of basic necessities, such as food and water.
Though the US Congress had authorized the transport of lethal arms to Ukraine, former President Obama feared such a move may escalate tensions with Russia even further, possibly to the point of anew cold war, which many believe materialized despite his reluctance. To this day, many experts believe that had arms been sent to Ukraine in the beginning, Russia may have reconsidered its actions not only in Ukraine, but in Syria as well. In this case, ironically, it was the Administration’s inaction that resulted in further aggression from Russia.
Instead of arms, support came in the form of sanctions against Russia by the United States and many other European allies. It was made clear that these sanctions would not be lifted until sovereignty was restored to the Ukrainian government, and that Crimea should also be returned to Ukraine.
At this time Putin, who continued to deny involvement, still sought to appear as though he was attempting to resolve the conflict, despite under-handed efforts to the contrary. Several ceasefires were agreed upon at that time, but were really only a pause in the fighting that lasted just long enough to send more equipment across the Russia-Ukraine border. Following each major ceasefire violation, the borders of Eastern Ukraine were redrawn to give even more territory to the pro-Russian fighters.
Meanwhile, the US and UK continued to feel some obligation to assist Ukraine, mostly because of theBudapest Agreement, which guaranteed Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for its remaining soviet era nuclear weapons. Russia also signed unto this agreement at the time. Some experts believe it’s possible that the invasion never would have occurred had Ukraine maintained its nuclear deterrent against outside aggressors, including Moscow which would have been well within range of its weaponry. The only problem with this agreement of guarantee is that it lacked specifics in one single area, the actual guarantee. For this reason, it was ignored by Russia and interpreted by others to suit political reasoning at the time.
Now, with official attention leaning more favorable towards Russia, Ukrainians may be unilaterally fighting on the frontline of a upcoming European war that some figureheads have managed to turn a blind eye to for one reason or another.
Maintaining a hold on Ukraine, Putin then sought out a different type of a solution to his now failing economy resulting from the sanctions laid out by Washington. In order to do this, it was important for Putin to take the attention off of Ukraine and focus it on another area of concern…Syria.
This operation began with the construction of a military airbase in Western Syria, which would later be used by Russian warplanes to carry out attacks against US-backed rebels operating against ISIS. State-run television in Russia often aired footage of what it claimed to be aerial attacks against the terror group, but in actuality were targeting any opposition to Assad’s totalitarian rule.
Though there were many reasons for Russia’s involvement in Syria, ISIS being one of the least, the sanctions were still a problem if Putin was to maintain public approval at home. Though having a tight lid on the media was of great value in maintaining multiple illusions, sooner or later the public would catch on through their hardship, regardless of how much was being blamed on Western interference. To do this, Putin needed to strike a deal with Washington, but one that did not involve giving up his stake in Ukraine. His involvement in Syria provided him with a bargaining chip to be used in negotiations, one that could jeopardize western interests in the Middle East should his own interests remain neglected.
Since then, like Ukraine, the situation in Syria has grown out of control. From the shooting down of a Russian plane by a NATO member, to the refugee crisis brought on by Russia’s indiscriminate bombings of Aleppo and other areas inside Syria. At some point, it was believed that one specific incident, unspecified to the media, nearly lead to a nuclear exchange between the two superpowers. Remember, this wasn’t that long ago.
The Refugee Crisis
A new door opened up for Putin, politics. With the ever increasing flood of refugees strolling into Europe, Putin can not only use this to his advantage over there, but could also use it as an example of what is yet to come in America. With lax borders and continued terror attacks, Putin decided that he could use it to appeal to the far right in several Western democracies. He would do this not only by spreading propaganda throughout Europe, but also in regions that had he’d previously ignored. This new idea was to be tested locally inside Europe, where it eventually gathered a great deal of success. But the ultimate barrier had yet to be crossed, the United States.
The idea was to use Europe’s anti-Islamic woes as a template, and to spread this possibility via means of propaganda throughout the Western world. In doing this, Putin could turn the tide in his favor. Not only did this serve as a useful weapon of mass distraction, but it could also be used to sway the US public’s opinion of Russia. Due to the negligence of mainstream media in reporting these matters, Putin’s ability to intervene in US politics was gravely underestimated.
Lies painted as new truths began to surface throughout US politics, lies that saw Russia as a potential ally and the US government and the media itself as their own worst enemy. Anxious over fears that hardly existed, many Americans bought it hook, line and sinker. Cashing in on fears of the public is not uncommon in US politics, the knee-jerk passage of the Patriot Act was a prime example. Only this time, such tactics were to be used in favor of a foreign influence who sought the destruction of its enemy from the inside out. Slowly but surely, the wolves were finally able to move undetected among the sheep. And instead of blowing the whistle as a patriot might do, many politicians used it for their own political gain, which will likely backfire and put their own fox hole at risk. It was now America versus America, which continues to evolve into a new nationalist attitude which could soon isolate the US from its own allies and the World, as it once did to Russia. Pay back can be a bitch.
In a sense, it can be said that Putin, a former KGB operative, is now using America’s most powerful weapon against itself…democracy.
The term “hacking” never really did apply to the US election, in my opinion. There was the hacking of major political parties, in which only the side which appealed to Putin went unreleased to Wiki-leaks. Those effects were limited on their own, but powerful when combined with Putin’s very own factory of trolls, whose job it was to spread fake news throughout social media. I observed these operations for myself, often taking notice of a new Twitter account, very few followers and containing tweets only damaging to one candidate, while hailing the other as the great messiah. These posts stopped suddenly following Tuesday’s election, like clockwork to be precise. By the following day, said accounts were either deleted or left for dead. At that time, our own Twitter account lost several followers. When we pulled up our statistics, nearly all of those lost were either accounts that were deleted that night, or were abandoned with no more than a handful of followers left hanging. I’m not going to take a position on the entire “hacked election” thing in this article, but I will say that “something” happened at that point. It should be noted however, that similar events are currently unfolding throughout Europe at this time.
Moving on. Upon discovery, the US had placed even more sanctions on Russia, but not until its purpose had been fulfilled. Russia’s prize, now President Donald Trump, said throughout his campaign that he would very much like to see a better relationship with Russia. Using the same fear card that was used with regard to illegal immigrants, it was an easy sell to much of the public. After all, just about everybody fears a war with Russia, but the problem is that appeasing the every whim of a man like Putin is the surest way to get one…historically speaking.
It should be noted that former President Obama and other world leaders tried the diplomatic approach, and not just once. It wasn’t until his term neared an end that he realized the pointlessness of it when dealing with the Kremlin. Of course, by then any action was a day late and a dollar short. Historically, appeasing a nation like Russia only makes it more aggressive. Doing so may prevent conflict temporarily, about the time it takes to serve a Presidential term perhaps, but over time the US would only be forced into trade after trade after trade, until a point comes when the adversary demands something the US can’t trade, like the Baltics, and then there will be a war far larger than what has ever been witnessed on Earth. This is not warmongering, as some “alternative fact” believers may call it, it’s as real as it gets. Problem is that many would rather line up for a reassuring lie than they would an inconvenient truth.
Very much like the Cuban Missile Crisis, a bully must be confronted right away, or the he’ll continue to keep on bullying. The people of Ukraine, who were once friendly with Russia, understand this now, as well as many others that have become victim to Putin’s wrath. To cave to the bully in this case, would be to surrender, and to surrender would only invite larger conflicts down the road. This is why US foreign policy in this respect has remained unchanged for decades, regardless of the leadership at any given time. This is an area where being different is of little merit. It’s not just policy, it’s become hardwired into the American soul by learning from a series of errors committed over the centuries, some of which that led to great wars and massive loss. It’s wiser to reference the past, than it is to gamble on the future, especially in the realm of geopolitics.
Ourselves and others have tried to shake Putin’s hand in agreement, and have learned what consequences await after such an attempt is made. There is a reason why nations such as Sweden and Finland are seeking closer ties to NATO. Both were threatened with being attacked with nuclear weapons should they refuse to bow down to Putin’s demands. The Baltics share similar concerns, given their close proximity to Russia. We should not let our short memories get the best of us and remember that these nations are former members of the Soviet Union, therefore they’re well aware of what their Russian neighbor is capable of. Therefore, this makes them well qualified to know a good line of Russian bullshit when they hear it.
Putin has revealed a pattern of behavior, and whether it be from disbelief or a bad memory, this should not be expected to change. The moment those sanctions get dropped against Russia, he’ll move on to his next ambition, and then the next one, and then the next one. He doesn’t need to control a foreign nation to suit his ambitions, just a nation’s leader, whether it be via threat, bribery, blackmail, ignorance, ego or mere stupidity.
A line must be drawn, and not merely a red line in the sand with no ass to back it up. We cannot simply call Putin our friend and call it a day. If the events of the past couple years has taught us anything, it is this…Vladimir Putin is not our friend. The sooner we accept the facts for what they are and not what we dream them to be, the better the outcome.
The factual news is currently being called fake, and the fake news is currently being called fact. Like a good lawyer in a courtroom, if one dishes out enough bullshit, nobody will know what to believe. I believe that to be the motive against recent attacks against the media, though I can’t deny that a fraction of these allegations may be well warranted. Regardless of this, the media must remain free, despite their bias at times, if democracy is to survive and accountability is to be served. Any other method could result in America becoming no different than the many two-bit military dictatorships it’s stood up against so many times in the past.
Truth is, the price to pay will be hell if those sanctions are lifted with anything less than the terms that were initially placed upon them. With all that is going on in the world, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that the lifting of those sanctions should be made a top priority during the President’s first week of office. That possibility in itself is enough to give any reasonable open-minded person pause.
If those sanctions are dropped, the enemy wins once again with the strike of a pen. No true patriot should be okay with that, nor should any American for that matter.
On a final note, it’s easy for one to turn a blind eye to hardships taking place in another part of the world, but too many times history has shown doing just that caused more problems than it actually solved. That being said, now is not the time to abandon our allies. To do so may trigger exactly what some believe it to prevent…World War III.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. -Matthew 5:17
This article (Beware Of The Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing) was originally created and published by warmonitor.net and is republished here under “Fair Use” (see disclaimer below) with attribution to author WARMONITOR and warmonitor.net.