Ukrainian President Zelensky is no hero or saint
Given the populace's gullibility and Ukraine's genuine military capacity, Ukraine's president is playing a very dangerous game here. Russia's demands, as far as I am aware, were acceptable in light of Ukraine's comparative force disadvantage.
1. Donbas autonomy (a necessary condition of the Minsk agreements, which Ukraine agreed but has not fulfilled since 2016),
2. A ban on NATO participation while keeping independence.
3. Ukraine to demilitarize
4. Refrain from stopping water from entering Crimea. A dam was built in Ukraine to keep water from entering Crimea. The Dnipro River provides 85 percent of Crimea's drinking water. It is required by Russia for any future development of Crimea as well as to support the military installations there (not to mention the seaside estates Russian oligarchs are planning). Spring is only a little more than two months away, and with the continued military buildup in Crimea, circumstances will deteriorate substantially.
None of them appear to be worse than death and the destruction of one's country. They actually worked quite well for Austria; they haven't been anschlussed in 80 years.
Ukrainian President Zelensky (and his predecessor) reasoned that they could keep the rebellious territories as part of Ukraine while avoiding being labeled as weak for giving up parts of Ukraine without a fight, which would enrage the public and cost them re-election. As a result, Zelensky reasoned that ignoring and then going to war with the world's second largest army, sacrificing a number of his people, would be a better political and financial outcome than pursuing discussions that would make him appear weak in the eyes of the public. Zelensky isn't a hero. He's simply another politician with lofty goals.
Because Russia has not expressed their goals explicitly, Ukrainian President Zelensky has filled the space with concepts of Russia adopting Ukraine as a province and dominating it. This plan seems odd to me. Even if they do manage to occupy it, it will be extremely costly. Putin, I believe, has stated that he does not wish to rule it. They are doing what the United States has done in a lot of conflicts: they are deposing a government and replacing it with one more conducive to their goals.
Perhaps they wish to save lives by ending the eight-year conflict with Ukraine over Donbass, which has claimed 14,000 lives. Perhaps they want to fight back against what they view as a sentiment that may lead to Ukraine joining NATO and then attacking them, engulfing the entire world in thermonuclear war, as Ukrainian President Zelensky is attempting to do today over two dead cities in the east. Or perhaps they did discover some weapon plan that poses a threat to Russia. Also, they may be hoping to obtain access to a resource by doing so. But it is beside the point; the US/NATO understands that in the event of a conflict, Russia will be forced to utilize tactical nuclear weapons.
It seems Russia's primary objective in Kyiv is President Zelensky and his government. According to reports, a squad of Chechen special forces 'hunters' has been dispatched to Ukraine with the mission of detaining or assassinating certain Ukrainian figures. Zelensky spoke to the public, indicating that Russia had designated him as the invasion's "target number one," but that he and his family would remain in the city. If persons on the wanted list are not arrested, there is allegedly a 'order to kill,' with speculation that those branded as 'Nazis' by Moscow would also be on the hunted list.
I was curious as to why Obama did not act more forcefully at the start of Euromaidan. The main difference back then was that most of the fighting on Ukraine's side was done by ultra-right militias, which Obama was unwilling to assist. The Ukrainian "Right Sector" militia burned alive 39 Russian speakers who were holding out in an Odessa trade union building, which was a crucial impetus for all hell breaking loose. Many of the right-wing militias were absorbed into the Ukrainian Army. This all happened before Zelensky was elected, and it was one of the many reasons the Obama administration was wary of getting too close to Ukraine. Obviously, the current President, a Jewish Liberal, has no ties to these organizations, but they are still very much alive in Ukraine. You can imagine how much Putin twisted the situation for propaganda purposes.
Russia will not win this conflict if it intends to annex Ukraine as a province and rule it. Ukrainians NOW love money and dislike powerful governments and laws. Anyone who has spent time in Ukraine will tell you how liberating it is. Even the cops are scarce on the streets.
People dislike living under Russia because Russia will not make you prosperous. It will not present you with a system in which you can succeed. It may increase pensions for retirees, but prices would rise as well, making the gain questionable even for them.
It will just be a heavy central government sucking resources from all across the place to feed the Moscow crony, clepto-elite. It robs the public and transfers the money to the Kremlin's ruling elites, the "Nomenklatura." They have a comfortable lifestyle; everyone else struggles to make ends meet.
Russia is a major provider of oil and gas. Earning around $900 million every day. It has the potential to make its people and those it occupies wealthy. And people would want to join them of their own own. Instead, millionaire oligarchs govern Russia, keeping the population destitute and dumb while sucking the resources to live it up in luxury.
This is why people do not want to live under the rule of Russia. It will make them poorer rather than richer. There will be restrictive laws in everything, there will be little access to venture financing, hostile takeovers, and so on. There will be no freedom of expression or assembly, no vigorous business life, and, in general, no future.
America attacks and occupies countries as well, but weirdly, living under Americans provides more prosperity than, God forbid, living under Russians. Amerikanos is slang for money. Russia equates to a lack of money for you.
In the 90s Russia was a failed joke state owned and operated by a handful of mainly criminal opportunist. They allowed Yeltsin to pretend to be President on account of him being an alcoholic who was only functional for 3 hours a day. They picked Putin to replace him out of the relative obscurity of St. Petersburg politics thinking they would have a similar arrangement, but Putin quietly took control of the Special Forces and the prisons, and soon the super selfish criminals and opportunist who stole too much were mostly in exile or in jail.
Then Russia was rebuilt as a real country again with great economic progress at least partial progress in restoring normal human society.
For the most part, Ukrainian President Zelensky has demonstrated a lack of concern for human life. When this conflict is resolved, he'll most likely be looking for a $3 million dollar book deal and virtually inspecting property in Los Angeles for his family while average Ukrainian lives in squalor.
Before 2014 Ukraine was in criminal hands. You could have your residence, car, or business stolen by corrupt officials, and if you didn't agree with them, they would destroy your office or force you to gift them your business or a portion of it. I feel that much of this will return following President Zelensky's poor leadership.
The background situation that led to the Ukraine invasion.
Ukraine used to be a very corrupt, backwards place. So then you had The Revolution of Dignity, also known as the Maidan Revolution in February 2014 when a series of violent events involving protesters, riot police, and unknown shooters in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv culminated in the ousting of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.
First, in November 2013, a wave of large-scale protests (known as Euromaidan) erupted in response to President Yanukovych's refusal to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) at a meeting of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius in Lithuania. The perception that Yanukovych was trying to establish closer ties with Russia played a major role in the protests. These protests continued for months. People in west Ukraine were sick of being poor and destitute.
In February 2014, clashes between the protestors and the Berkut (special riot police) became violent, and resulted in the deaths of nearly 130 people, including 18 police officers. On February 21, an agreement between President Yanukovych and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition was signed that called for early elections and the formation of an interim unity government. The following day, Yanukovych fled from the capital ahead of an impeachment vote. The protesters proceeded to take control of the capital buildings. On the same day, the parliament declared that Yanukovych was relieved of duty in a 328-to-0 vote (out of the Rada’s 450 members).
Yanukovych said that this vote was illegal and possibly coerced, and asked the Russian Federation for assistance. Russia considered the overthrow of Yanukovych to be an illegal coup, and did not recognize the interim government. Widespread protests, both in favor of and against the revolution, occurred in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, where Yanukovych previously received strong support in the 2010 presidential election. These protests escalated, resulting in a Russian military intervention and the establishment of the self-proclaimed proto-states Donetsk and Luhansk.
The interim government, led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, proceeded to sign the EU association agreement. Petro Poroshenko became the president of Ukraine after a landslide victory in the 2014 presidential elections. The new government restored the 2004 amendments to the Ukrainian constitution that were controversially repealed as unconstitutional in 2010 and initiated a large-scale purge of civil servants who were associated with the overthrown regime.
Several government ministers from across Europe blamed Russia for exacerbating the violence. In an interview on 20 February, a retired colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Russia (GRU), Aleksandr Musienko, said that the conflict could only be solved by force, and that Ukraine had proven it could not exist as an independent, sovereign state. According to government documents released by Ukrainian former Deputy Interior Minister Hennadiy Moskal, Russian officials served as advisers to the operations against protesters. Code-named "Wave" and "Boomerang", the operations involved the use of snipers to disperse crowds and capture the protesters' headquarters in the House of Trade Unions. Before some police officers defected, the plans included the deployment of 22,000 combined security troops in Kyiv.
On 21 February, after a failed crackdown that killed as many as 100 people, Yanukovych made some concessions. In response, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia said that Yanukovych needed to stop behaving like a "doormat", and that further loan installments would be withheld. A Russian political adviser, Sergey Markov, said, "Russia will do everything allowable by law to stop [the opposition] from coming to power." On 24 February, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Ukrainians to "crack down on the extremists who are trying to get established in power", and Medvedev refused to recognize Ukraine's provisional government as legitimate.
Pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine
On 23 February, Parliament adopted a bill to repeal the country's law on minority languages. If signed by the president, the bill would have disestablished Russian as a minority languages of Ukraine, although regions like Crimea are populated by a Russian-speaking majority. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the bill "only served to infuriate Russian-speaking regions, who saw the move as more evidence that the antigovernment protests in Kyiv that toppled Yanukovych's government were intent on pressing for a nationalistic agenda. Acting President Turchynov vetoed the bill on 28 February.
Also on 23 February, clashes erupted in Kharkiv between thousands of equally sized pro- and anti-government rallies, and Mayor Kernes was blocked from entering the City Council building. Pro-Russian protesters stood guard over the statue of Vladimir Lenin in the city center, but the deputy head of the Regional State Administration announced that the city would dismantle the statue regardless on 25 February.
On 1 March, thousands of people in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Simferopol, Odessa, Luhansk, Melitopol, Yevpatoria, Kerch, and Mariupol protested against the new government. Public surveys in April revealed that most people in Ukraine's eastern regions considered all levels of the government illegitimate. Half of respondents believed that President Turchynov was "illegally occupying his post". Roughly half held the same opinion about the central government led by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. However, nearly 70% agreed that Yanukovych was also not the legal president of the country.
Ukraine became gripped by unrest when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union on 21 November 2013. An organized political movement known as 'Euromaidan' demanded closer ties with the European Union, and the ousting of Yanukovych. This movement was ultimately successful, culminating in the February 2014 revolution, which removed Yanukovych and his government. However, some people in largely Russophone eastern and southern Ukraine, the traditional bases of support for Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions, did not approve of the revolution, and began to protest in favour of closer ties with Russia. Various demonstrations were held in Crimea in favour of leaving Ukraine and accession to the Russian Federation, leading to the 2014 Crimean crisis.
Lots of protests but no real support for separatists
According to an opinion poll done by the International Republican Institute between 14 and 26 March, 26–27% of respondents in southern and eastern Ukraine considered the Euromaidan protests as a coup d'état. Only 5% of respondents in eastern Ukraine believed that Russian-speaking residents were 'certainly' threatened or under pressure. 43% of ethnic Russians ('absolutely' or 'somewhat') backed the Russian Federation's decision to send its military to Ukraine to safeguard Russian-speaking citizens.
According to the poll, 22% of southern Ukrainians and 26% of eastern Ukrainians support federalization; 69 percent of southerners and 53% of easterners support Ukraine being a unitary state; and only 2% of southerners and 4% of easterners support secession. 59% of those surveyed in eastern Ukraine expressed a desire to join the Russian-led customs union, while only 22% expressed a desire to join the European Union. 37% of southerners prefer to join this customs union, whereas 29% prefer to join the EU. 90% of those surveyed in western Ukraine desired economic union with the EU, while only 4% desired a customs union led by Russia. Overall, 34% of Ukrainians polled favor joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while 44% oppose it. Only 14% and 11% of respondents in eastern and southern Ukraine, respectively, support NATO membership, while 67% and 52% in eastern and southern Ukraine, respectively, reject it. 72% of respondents in eastern Ukraine believed the country was heading in the wrong way, compared to 36% in western Ukraine.
The Institute of Social Research and Policy Analysis conducted a poll to ascertain the identity of Donetsk residents. While support for separatism was modest, little more than a third of Donetsk residents asked identified as "Ukrainian citizens." "Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine" or "residents of Donbas" are favored terms. According to the same poll, 66 percent of Donetsk people favored remaining part of a unified Ukraine, while 18.2 percent favored joining Russia and 4.7 percent favored independence. A second poll conducted between 26 and 29 March found that 77% of residents opposed taking over government facilities, while 16% supported such steps. Additionally, 40.8 percent of Donetsk residents favored pro-Ukrainian rallies, while 26.5 percent favored pro-Russian marches. Another KIIS poll conducted between 8 and 16 April found that a large majority disapproved of demonstrators seizing administration facilities.
Over half of those surveyed in southern and eastern Ukraine believed acting President Oleksandr Turchynov was unfit to serve. The majority of respondents in southern and eastern Ukraine agreed that disarming and disbanding illegal extremist groups was critical to preserving national unity. 19.1 percent of those polled in southern and eastern Ukraine believed Ukraine should be an independent state; 45.2 percent believed Ukraine should be an independent state with decentralized power, but the majority believed Russia and Ukraine should have open borders without visa restrictions; 8.4 percent believed Ukraine and Russia should merge into a single state. 15.4 percent expressed support for their region seceding to join the Russian Federation, while 24.8 percent expressed support for Ukraine forming a federation. The majority of people surveyed indicated they considered Russia unattractive, although those who did did so for economic rather than cultural reasons. Southern and eastern Ukraine residents were mostly divided on the legitimacy of the current government and parliament, although a majority in all regions agreed that deposed President Viktor Yanukovych was not the country's lawful president. Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Euromaidan oligarch, dominated preliminary election surveys in all regions except the Donbas.