Fables of Ignatius

by Gordon M. Hahn

With it becoming ever more clear that the US government and media have been covering up especially the Democratic Party’s collusion with Ukraine’s government in order to facilitate the self-enrichment of DP leaders’ family members, undermine the presidential candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump (however unpresidential he may be) and foment liberal-socialist revolutions globally, the participants are moving into high gear propaganda mode. A recent piece from David Ignatius is a good place to begin to highlight the intensification. In a recent article (People died while Trump played games with Ukraine’s military aid, Washington Post, November 13, 2019, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/people-died-while-trump-played-games-with-ukraines-military-aid/2019/11/12/a4cc18a6-0598-11ea-b17d-8b867891d39d_story.html), Ignatius charges Trump with the responsibility for the continuation of the Donbass civil war and its casualties for withholding military aid to Kyiv. This is apparently a move by the Democratic establishment to escalate the confrontation with the White House by adding to the charge that Trump held up financial assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy renewed Ukraine’s investigation of the Bidens’ corrupt activities the charge that Trump also held military assistance hostage in return for an investigation of the Bidens. Unfortunately, Ignatuis’s ‘narrative’ falls flat on its face when it is understood, as former US National Security Council Europe-Eurasia chief Fiona Hill testified to Congress in the impeachment hearings that the hold up was part of a general delay caused by a broad policy review conducted by the incoming Trump administration (https://d3i6fh83elv35t.cloudfront.net/static/2019/11/FionaHill-compressed.pdf, pp. 227-8).

Ignatius writes that while Trump fiddles, Ukraine burns, that Ukrainians died while, if not because Trump withheld military aid to Kyiv:

“As Ukrainians were struggling with near-daily shellfire, Trump appeared to treat military aid appropriated by Congress as a personal political tool.” “Trump’s Ukraine machinations have yielded something like what we’ve seen in these other theaters: the diminution of U.S. power and a corresponding increase in Russia’s military and diplomatic leverage.” (Here he cites Syria specifically.) “Russian diplomatic gains have also been evident in Ukraine. While Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was flitting around the country disparaging U.S. diplomats, Moscow was seeking a deal to stabilize Ukraine on favorable terms. The Russians are now discussing an agreement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – the man Trump importuned in his infamous July 25 phone call for a ‘favor’ in investigating his political rivals in return for military help.” Ignatius hits this point again: “Zelensky has pressed ahead with his peace efforts, and Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces have now disengaged at Zolote and two other crossing points.”

Ignatius blames several deaths on Trump’s weapons’ supply delay, as he tries to make the debate over Ukraine policy, as he states explicitly, “more visceral” — that is, emotional — rather than rational. To achieve this effect, he closes his article with supposed dramatic effect: “Here are some details from recent OSCE cease-fire monitoring reports: On Oct. 5, a man and a woman died after a grenade exploded in their apartment in Kurakhove; on Oct. 24, a man was injured by shrapnel near Luhansk; on Nov. 1, a man was injured by shelling in Spartak. As you watch the impeachment hearings, remember this basic fact: While Trump was playing politics on Ukraine, people who depended on U.S. military aid were getting killed and wounded.” Like Canadian Professor Paul Robinson, when I read this I immediately smelled a rat, but Prof. Robinson beat me to the punch in exposing this falsehood. As it turns out, these casualties of the civil war are all almost certainly to have been inflicted by the pro-Kyiv Madian forces and not by the separatists. In the case of the grenade exploding in the apartment, neither of the warring sides appears to be responsible, since a criminal was opened in the matter, suggesting,  no one fired or threw the grenade into the apartment, since a criminal case was opened. In all cases, Ignatius’s casualties occurred in areas controlled by the rebels, suggesting the Ukrainian government forces fired on rebel territory, inflicting the casualties (https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/trump-is-killing-ukrainians/). Whatever the case, Ignatius would have no way of knowing otherwise, but he wrote so as to imply the rebels and, of course, Russia and its agent Trump are to blame. He likely assumed and hoped the rebels and thus Russia and Trump ‘were responsible’, while failing to look deeper into the OSCE report in the way Prof. Robinson studiously has. Nevertheless, Ignatius elsewhere in the piece provides detailed OSCE statistics on ceasefire violations from such reports, but somehow he missed the details on the locations of the casualties and under which side’s control they are under. 

The most erroneous and deliberate omission in the piece is directly germane to the Trump’s delay of the arms supplies. That is, the Barack Obama administration had more than two years to send such arms and did not do so. Moreover, this failure occurred at the height of the civil war and relatively large-scale military operations, not during a shaky ceasefire. So again we have partisan attacks masquerading as foreign policy analysis. This — the American tendency to distort the reality of foreign affairs and the nature of various foreign countries and regimes, especially Russian and Ukraine today by both sides of the aisle in order to score points in the domestic political competition — is one of the most deleterious aspects of American politics, and there are many such aspects.

Ignatius also implies that the Russian-backed Donbass separatists are the attackers, even though it was Kyiv which declared and started the civil war, refusing to negotiate with the separatists. The separatists have seceded and are preventing the Ukrainian government’s forces from seizing their breakaway regions and forcing them back into the Ukrainian fold without any concessions. But Ignatius says: “Zelensky announced Oct. 1 that he had agreed to Russian calls to implement a formula proposed in 2016 by then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that, in Zelensky’s version, would provide withdrawal of Russian proxy forces followed by elections in the separatist areas of the east.” There is no ‘Zelensky version’ of the Steinmeier plan. There is only the Steinmeier plan, which seeks to get both sides to withdraw forces from the front line, not just ‘Russian proxy forces.’

Oddly, Ignatius uses terms such as “Russian-backed forces” and “Russian proxy forces.” He never mentions the once falsely claimed tens of thousands of Russian troops occupying Ukraine. What happened, Mr Ignatius? Tens of thousands turned out to be a few thousand who temporarily intervened twice to save the Donbass rebels from encirclement and destruction.

Ignatius is at wit’s end over Trump’s lack of diplomatic action in the peace negotiations and Russian “diplomatic gains,” noting: “How is the United States shaping events as Ukraine is rebalanced? America isn’t really a player. Trump said in September while meeting Zelensky in New York: ‘I really hope that you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.'” Also: “Trump’s Ukraine machinations have yielded something like what we’ve seen in these other theaters: the diminution of U.S. power and a corresponding increase in Russia’s military and diplomatic leverage.” However, it was the Barack Obama administration that: helped spark the entire crisis with its revolution-promotion policies, stayed away from the talks between eventually overthrown Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition sponsored by the EU and Russia leading to the 20 February 2014 agreement that could have averted all that followed (including the Donbass civil war), lied about who shot at protesters on the Maidan on 20 February 2014 sparking the revolution and the agreement’s burial, did nothing to stop the new Maidan regime from starting the civil war, and did not participate in the Minsk peace process. This is the reason America is not a player in the peace process, and Russia and the EU, which have been participants from the beginning, are. Any US role under the Trump administration in peace talks that involve Putin would be called by the likes of Ignatius as appeasement of, and capitulation to the dictator Putin by his agent and colluder Trump. Meaningful participation by Washington is now impossible given ‘Russiagate’ and ‘Ukrainegate’. While I am no admirer of President Trump or his foreign policy, as i have written several times, There is little to no reason to place the onus for the American absence from diplomatic action surrounding Ukraine on Trump’s shoulders.

Most ignominiously, Ignatius mentions unspecified “critics” of Zelenskiy accusing him of “capitulation” for his decision to attempt to stop the civil war, reengage the Minsk process, and begin talks with Russia. Who are those critics who are accusing? By and large, they are ultra-nationalist and neofascist Volunteer Corps, C 14 (Sich), Svoboda, Right Sector and others. These groups and their members, who largely populated the ‘volunteer batallions in the Donbass war regarded by George Kent as Ukraine’s version of the ‘minutemen’, have committed war crimes, political and racial murders away from the front, and terrorist acts such as the pogrom in Odessa on 2 May 2014, and the attempt to storm the parliament setting off a grenade seriously wounding policemen, terrorized anti-Maidan politicians, hold Nazi-allied World War II fascists and anti-Semites as their heroes, and regularly march in the streets of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities in fascist, threatening torch-bearing marches. Most recently these ‘critics’ held a rally in downtown Kyiv against Zelenskiy’s efforts to negotiate peace in Donbass (https://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/bileckyj/5da4e15a090ad/?fbclid=IwAR3h270SlD0aGmlwoo4N1yUtSuzOxH9V5kPsjDID0r_heEEy23-LkWiaY7U). If you follow the previous link and scroll down to the last photograph, you will see Andriy Biletskiy, leader of the neofascist Social-National Assembly and the notorious Azov Batallion. No John Parker, Biletskiy is a white supremacist, neo-Nazi whose Azov Battalion has been accused of war crimes by human rights organizations and condemned by the US Congress as a Nazi organization and blocked its access to US military training being provided to the Ukrainian army (https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2015-06-12/ukraine-s-neo-nazis-won-t-get-u-s-money). The sponsor of the bill, Democratic congressmen John Conyers, was then accused by the Democratic propaganda machine as “Putin’s man in Congress” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/putins-man-in-congress_b_7957480?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9yLnNlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20vX3lsdD1BMGdlS0x0RHE5RmRrN2NBeVJ4WE55b0E7X3lsdT1YM29ETVRFeVpuQnVOelp1QkdOdmJHOERZbVl4QkhCdmN3TTJCSFowYVdRRFFqa3hORGRmTVFSelpXTURjM0ktL1JWPTIvUkU9MTU3NDA1MDc1NS9STz0xMC9SVT1odHRwcyUzYSUyZiUyZnd3dy5odWZmcG9zdC5jb20lMmZlbnRyeSUyZnB1dGlucy1tYW4taW4tY29uZ3Jlc3NfYl83OTU3NDgwL1JLPTIvUlM9MV90UjlMSXdRR0lDUzBIQVlEN0p0a3VHNmh3LQ&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAABTQIWC759KHepsCnqdGdAIC-k_IGCrznJGdDl81KRYqYhNRZw6gZZ4SYawGcvR2sUKiXFk7We_eg2UqdI0C41ohP_X7L167LdJkCcd6081wQV2wzD9ynsNG0ueuEnJo7sJYH_wqvTuern-4-e712zBHnKLwi-qbFlgO3YifT6Cx&guccounter=2).

President Zelenskiy’s ‘critics’ have descended on key front line sectors to prevent the drawback of Ukrainian armed forces and ultranationalist-dominated ‘volunteer battalions. These radicals are so dangerous that Zelenskiy was forced a few weeks ago to visit them and appeal to them to support his attempt to broker peace in Donbass. Afterwards, they issued a video refusing to compromise and threatening Zelenskiy in an undefined way if he continued with his peace efforts.

It is now important for every American to realize that he or she can get little to no reliable news from the US mainstream media on Ukraine, Russia, or even the United States itself. The inevitable confusion and apathy is particularly dangerous in a country with the enormous responsibility of being the leader of the democratic community of states the U.S. purports itself to be. It will allow political leaders with strong media support to manipulate reality and lead the country down a dark alley from which there is no return.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Dr. Hahn’s most recent book is Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War”. He has authored three previous, well-received books: The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.

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About Gordon M. Hahn