In Justin Podur, Russia, Ukraine

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Justin Podur, who runs the “Anti-Empire Project” website, has recently shared this brief but insightful analysis with his followers and the NCW editorial group would now like to share it with our readers, it’s just what’s needed right now.

Published by Justin Podur, Feb 28, 2022
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[…] I have had inquiries about what someone who runs a site called the “Anti-Empire Project” has to say about the war in Ukraine.

I have been tweeting about it and today what I mainly had to say was expressing hope that the negotiations yield something. I’ve been told they’ve already broken off and amounted to nothing, but I can’t verify that and anyway that’s how negotiations go – they yield nothing until they yield something.

You can look back at the archives on my site and see that Russia and Ukraine aren’t areas that I cover extensively – though of course as an antiwar activist you’ll find a few items on it – like this interview from 2017 with academic Halyna Mokrushyna from the early days of the podcast (can’t say much about the audio quality, but Halyna was insightful if you’re looking for background). But it’s impossible to not pay attention to this so instead of claiming any instant expertise that I do not have, let me say a few things about my approach to these situations and then a few things that I’m reading.

Sources: You will have figured out that there is an “information war” happening as part of the actual war. When you see a claim about something that happened in the war, you have to apply the usual tests – what are the interests of the source? Does the information fit the source’s biases or run against them? What is the source’s past record – what were they working on and doing before this current conflict started? Not just what kinds of things, but how accurate were they? Do they have good academic practice (do they reveal their sources and research methods so that you can follow their trail)? Start with the CRAAP method (Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority, Purpose) and go from there. Know that during wars there is 10x more disinformation than usual and there’s a lot in normal times.

Analysis: At the risk of having some of you new subscribers flee, you should know that my point of view is that there is only one empire in the world today. That’s why this site isn’t called the “Anti-EmpireS Project”. There are many relationships between states and there are big states that exert disproportionate influence on their smaller neighbours. But when you hear me talking about “the Empire”, I’m referring to a whole background of the events of the past 250 years or so, when first the British Empire and now the American Empire ruled (and a pretty smooth transition between these two). If you’re skeptical about this, I doubt I’ll be able to convince you in one paragraph of a newsletter but I am planning to do at least a podcast episode on this topic some time soon. The point here though is that I do understand the context of this to be NATO expansion and the US desire to prevent any rivals from presenting any challenge to its influence, and to try to ensure that the only power that can set red lines is the US.

The only other point of analysis that I’d suggest is that you reject any personal, psychological or pseudo-psychological, explanations of the situation (e.g. “Putin is a madman”). These are a substitute for hard thinking and information, and get you away from thinking about political and economic issues that are key to understanding the problem and its solution. The same goes for demonization, and though you know I am no fan of “both sides” type analysis, this is a case where demonization should be strictly avoided, on “both sides”. Nazi-type parties polled around 2% in the 2019 Ukraine election, despite their high visibility. Ukraine and Russia are neighbours and will have to live as neighbours when this is over. It would be unhelpful to that future to do demonizing if you lived there. To do demonizing from elsewhere is reprehensible.

Peace is the priority: If this is an anti-empire project, one premise is that war has a pro-empire bias and peace has an anti-empire bias. I know that you could read the whole history of wars of national liberation otherwise – but even wars of national liberation end with peace agreements and it’s my belief that the faster and less destructive the path to a peace agreement, the better. Another related point is that, as many have said, peace deals are made between enemies, not friends – the right people to talk are the people who are fighting and the right time for a peace agreement is yesterday if possible, but right now will do.

Alright. Some readings:

-Michael Hudson, America Defeats Germany for the Third Time – the author of Superimperialism explains some of the economics.

-Ivan Timofeev, Ukraine: Three Scenarios – a Russian writer outlines three scenarios a month ago, and we are in scenario 1.

-MA Bhadrakumar – an Indian ex-diplomat runs a well-informed blog, Indian Punchline, on world events with lots of information on Ukraine-Russia right now.

-I’d also recommend watching the US-based, well-connected John Meirsheimer’s lecture from 2015, “Why is Ukraine the West’s Fault?” and his updated talk from last week, given to a university audience in London over Zoom.

There is more, but I’ll leave it there. I’d be happy to hear from you what you’re reading and thinking about this, and whatever you think could help nudge the situation towards a peaceful resolution.

-Justin

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