by Rostislav Ishchenko, President of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting, for “Aktualniye Commentariye”

original article here:

translation by “KA”

Not all politicians and experts recognise that a state of war exists between Russia and the United States. Despite Washington’s clearly stated strategy regarding regime change in Russia and the thwarting of any opportunities for Moscow to carry out any kind of independent policy.

Many people, who have for decades been accustomed to the belief that war between the USSR (Russia) and the United States would be an apocalypse, when bombs and rockets with nuclear warheads would fall from the sky more abundantly than winter snow, still continue to call the current situation a crisis, a second edition of the cold war, but not a war in the truest sense of the word.

However the cold war was contrived so that the two opposing superpowers and their allies could fight each other even though direct armed conflict was impossible. Incidentally it should be noted that war and armed conflict are two different terms.

Not every armed conflict is a war and not every war is an armed conflict. The cold war wasn’t called the cold war for nothing. The bottom line is that the USSR as the losing side, suffered losses (physical, human and political) which were greater than those of Germany in 1945.

Now there are terms in use such as “information war”, “network-centric warfare”, “hybrid war”, “new generation warfare”. However they all contain the term war, that is they describe the conflict between states with aggressive objectives.

In some cases modern wars do also involve armed conflict. However, the main participants prefer to conduct them on foreign ground and predominantly by proxy. It is especially chic (along with an almost 100% guarantee of success) to draw your opponent into direct participation in armed conflict while yourself staying on the outside. The USSR managed to pull this off with the Americans in Vietnam and the US reciprocated by drawing the USSR into Afghanistan.

Now Washington is trying with all its strength to pull Russia into an armed conflict with third parties. It all began with attempts to organise a Ukrainian-Russian war and is continuing with an attempt to create a Russian-European armed conflict.

Naturally, we are not talking about unleashing a war in nuclear format. Not for now. Although, from the point of view that the situation could possibly deteriorate out of control, the American attempts to sacrifice several members of the EU and NATO in order to draw Russia into an armed conflict with at least some part of the European Union is already quite dangerous. And in general the conflict between nuclear superpowers is always fraught with dangers, particularly if the war (regardless of whether hybrid or cold) results in the elimination of one of the opponents.

Nevertheless we can be optimists and believe that the war will end in the same format it began, when, for example, the army of Novorossiya takes Lvov or Warsaw or Vilnius. One could claim that this is impossible, but in 1989 nobody believed in the collapse of the Soviet Union (and it was already in full swing). In addition, the Americans themselves said that the next target after Mariupol will be Vilnius. And the Americans know best. Moreover they are very good at making predictions in military conflicts.

In 2008 they said that Ukraine was next in line for war after Georgia and here you are, not even seven years later and civil war has broken out in Ukraine, which Kiev with Washington’s approval for some reason calls a Ukrainian-Russian war. So if the Americans say that the military road leads from Mariupol to Vilnius, you don’t of course have to believe them, but you do need to listen.

In general, if we proceed from the assumption that the war will end with the defeat of the US without entering the stage of nuclear confrontation of the superpowers, the post-war world will require restructuring and the geographical results of the fighting will require anchoring in an international legal framework. Simply put, there will be two issues:

  • the new global financial and economic system;
  • new borders.

As far as the new financial and economic systems are concerned – let the economists argue over these. Right now there is no indication of an outline of what these might be. New hegemons and hegemon-candidates are visible. New reserve currencies (including potential ones) are also visible. But all this is in the framework of a reboot of the old system, which for the most part does not even permit an exit from the systemic crisis, only shifts its costs onto the shoulders of “the golden billion”, who were going to be the beneficiaries of the crisis. In reality other countries will be the real beneficiaries.

A new system is precisely what is needed. So new that in these circumstances even the most radical communists will just look like reformers of the old system (this in conditions where reforms are already overdue). And obviously, the new system will be created slowly or quickly, amicably and cheerfully or with much bloodshed, but by trial and error, because no-one yet has any idea how it should look and work.

Here with the borders it is easier. You can move them further away or closer. You can decide not to move them at all, creating out of the occupied territories formally sovereign, but in fact dependent state formations, controlled by friendly regimes. Indeed, the debate about what to do with territorial gains following victory is already ongoing in society.

What is more everybody is participating in the debate – from leading politicians and recognised experts to “specialists” from social networks, tolerating four mistakes in three-letter words, but somehow just “knowing” how to manage not just the country or the planet but even the universe.

Let’s try to consider this question in the most detached and objective way possible. I emphasise, not the way that considers what the Russian authorities are planning (they probably don’t know yet what they will do, and if they do know, they will keep this under wraps to the last minute and would be right to do so) and not the way that the heated public considers “fair”, while it is watching political talk shows, most of whose participants try to guess the secret intentions of the powers that be and adopt a position, corresponding as closely as possible to the most recent versions of the “party line” (as they imagine it to be). The question should be considered in the way common sense and political tradition suggests.

Since the object of the discussion last year on the theme “how can we develop” was Ukraine, we will practice with it. Firstly, the part of society which thinks in stereotypes will be more understandable. Secondly, no-one can accuse us of calling for the occupation of Lithuania or Poland or of attempting to ignite a global military conflagration. However, let’s reiterate, we are talking about Ukraine only as a universal example, the findings are just as applicable to Canada, Australia, Poland, Columbia and even to the United States itself.

So, what is being discussed? What proposals are on the table?

  1. Got to get rid of the junta, kill the Nazis, install a pro-Russian government in Kiev, then let them extricate themselves as best they know how for it is unprofitable to feed them at the expense of the Russian budget. There are problems a plenty in this country, we will find somewhere to spend the money. In such a version they can set up Novorossiya, in these or other borders, as an independent state (but of course “all by itself”) or regard it as an integral part of some kind of Ukrainian Confederation. Crimea, of course, is ours. That much is sacred.
  2. Get rid of the junta, kill the Nazis, annex the territory with Russian people and let the others get out as they please. For example, let the EU take them or let them sit in their reservation and shout “Glory to Ukraine!” until they die of hunger. A referendum can help decide who is Russian and who not so much. Where 51% are for accession to Russia – there they are all Russian, and where 49% – there they are all traitors.
  3. Drive the junta together with the Nazis into Galicia, enclose them with barbed wire, and let them construct their independent Ukraine there – if the Poles permit it. Then annex the rest of the territory (there is also the option of not annexing but creating a friendly state, but this is similar to option 1 with the exception of the prior expulsion of the hostile territory of Galicia from such a state).
  4. Annex everything that we can reach and for the rest let the chips fall where they may.
  5. Create one to three federal districts out of Ukraine and incorporate these into the Russian Federation.

There are dozens of sub-options, but these five describe the main solutions offered by the public and the expert community. Let us now assess the situation.

  • Does the majority of the Ukrainian population support the idea of integration into Russia? Probably not? All polls in recent years have shown that even among the pro Russian parts of the population the proportion supporting joining Russia does not exceed 50%. The rest wanted to live on friendly terms but separately. If you don’t take the relatively small number of political exiles into account, then even the refugees from war-torn Donbass don’t wholly support the inclusion of their territory into the Russian Federation.

Many want to create independent republics. There are already millions of fugitives from the draft from the central and western regions of Ukraine and in all this they continue to see Russia as the enemy, on whose territory they wait out the end of his (the enemy’s) aggression. Public consciousness will change, but political (including territorial) changes always lag behind changes in public consciousness.

  • Does the position of the people of Ukraine on the question of the territorial-political system of their former state have any significance? Not in the least. I recall that at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union the overwhelming majority of the population of Ukraine was in favour of retaining a single state. Even the second referendum in 1991 which supposedly legalised independence, was presented to the voters as a vote on strengthening Ukraine within the framework of a revitalised Union.

Moreover, parliament, the executive, the administrative hierarchy and authorities were all controlled by the Ukrainian Communist Party, which was an integral part of the CPSU. This did not prevent Ukraine from becoming independent and with each year of independence becoming more and more russophobic.

  • Would it be possible to save money from the Russian budget by installing a pro-Russian government in Ukraine and then suggesting that it extricates itself from the catastrophic situation on its own. No, that isn’t possible. Such a government would not have sufficient internal power or economic resources to restore life to normal. A low intensity civil war would drag on (although with gangs of nationalists who would have moved on to semi-guerrilla activity). It would not have the funds to build a new economy in place of the ruined one.

It would quickly lose credibility and further it would only be able to hold on with the help of Russian soldiers. The worse the general situation became, the more soldiers would be necessary and their support, their maintenance, the creation of normal living conditions for them would demand more and more money. Besides, as the military presence would need to be maintained over years, so it would be necessary to provide housing, schools, kindergartens and workplaces to the families of officers and enlisted men and that is a very expensive pleasure.

  • Would it be possible to just let things happen as they will and either not appoint any government in Ukraine or allow the people to endure without taking control and to refuse to interfere in the internal policy of a “friendly country”? Not possible. Firstly, why then agonise over this now. It was possible not to intervene from the start. Secondly, because nature abhors a vacuum and there will always be someone who wants to take control of a strategic territory in Russia’s underbelly.

In politics there are no friends. Thirdly, in as far as a territory of conquered Makhnovism with 40 million people is itself a burden for the Russian budget, the armed forces and administrative systems are an overwhelming one. If Russia does not eliminate the Ukrainian Somalia on its borders, then the Ukrainian Somalia will eliminate Russia (sooner or later the burden will crush the state).

  • Is it possible to consider Ukrainian territories a foreign country and the Ukrainian people foreigners? It is not only impossible, it would be politically dangerous, for if the Ukrainians are not Russian and on the basis of this retain the right in any situation to their own state, then why should Yakuts or Kamchadals be considered Russian. I understand that today Yakut separatism does not constitute a threat to Russia. You could say that it doesn’t exist as a political phenomenon. But nothing is permanent. Until the end of 1991 Ukraine was also the most loyal republic of the union and was even semi-officially called “the preserve of stagnation”.

Then what? It was as if a chain broke. In addition, a significant proportion of those who today call themselves Ukrainian and “patriots of Ukraine” were born and brought up in Russia and moved to Ukraine as adults and didn’t think of becoming Ukrainian until the trend changed and the correction of public consciousness had taken place. In this way Avakov, Kolomoisky, Achmetov and Rabinovitch all became Ukrainian. At the same time a large number of people, whose families had lived in Ukraine for centuries and who were registered as Ukrainian, feel that they are Russian.

On top of this some of these (Russian Ukrainians) support Russia whereas others are prepared to fight Russia for Ukraine, although Ukraine is prepared to assimilate them and they value their Russianness highly. And lastly indigenous Russian citizens of Russia are taking part in the war in Ukraine on both sides of the barricades. Thus this is also a Russian civil war in which citizens of Russia, even if on nominally foreign territory, are killing each other on the basis of ideological differences.

  • Is it possible to reject some parts of the territory of Ukraine because they were included in the Russian state later than others? Also no. Because then the logical question arises: who was included in time? And because how can somebody be Russian twenty years ago, but now a little later, God knows who they are. A simple example. The Kasimovsky Tatars became part of the Russian state under Vasily II (Vasily the Blind), they helped him and his son Ivan III to create and expand that state.

The peoples of Tver, Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Pskov and Ryazan became Russian some of them around twenty years and some all of eighty years later than the henchmen of Tsarevitch Kasim. Kazan and Astrakhan, which never were former Russian cities, were added a hundred years before Russian Smolensk finally became part of Russia.

Peter the Great added the Baltic States to the Empire when Ukraine’s border with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth still ran between Kiev and Bila Tserkva and all of Belarus was part of the Polish-Lithuanian state. The Aleuts were already Russian but there wasn’t even a plan for Odessa and Sevastopol. If you start rejecting territory on the grounds that it wasn’t ours for long enough, it would be logical to return to the borders of the Great Duchy of Moscow in the times of Ivan Kalita.

  • Is it advisable in principle to retain the Ukrainian state? No.

Any Ukrainian authorities with real independence will immediately start to revive the strategy of russophobia. Otherwise they cannot explain to their people, what their purpose is and why the people need this state? In Belarus Lukashenko found a convincing explanation of his usefulness. Next door to the oligarch-controlled Russia of Yeltsin he created a social state.

By the way, as soon as the Russian authorities addressed the social sphere and achieved impressive results in this regard, a political demand for Belarus nationalism was born in Belarus. Right now it looks as harmless as Ukrainian nationalism did in 1991. But this baby is growing fast. Well, you know the Ukrainian state is built on principles which are even worse than those of the Yeltsin regime. It is not possible to imagine a Ukrainian president who might sanction a sudden attack on Pristina as Yeltsin did.

Instead the Ukrainian oligarchs could have taken Berezovsky as an apprentice as part of their plundering of the Soviet heritage. That is, the Ukrainian elite could sell such a state to its people only under the guise of defence from the age-old “Russian enemy”. That’s why the thoroughly culturally Russian Presidents Kuchma and Yanukovych carried out Ukrainisation almost more purposefully and indeed more successfully than did Kravchuk or Yushchenko. In general, any point on the map called Ukraine, even if the country shrinks to the size of one city, will be extremely russophobic and will always be ready to make its territory available to any enemy of Russia.

What needs to be taken into consideration for the resolution of the border question?

Solely issues pertaining to state security should be taken into account. Peter the Great integrated all of the Baltic States into Russia and Alexander the Blessed included Finland, because it was necessary to protect the land and sea approaches to St Petersburg.

Catherine annexed Novorossiya and the Crimea in order to protect the indigenous Russian regions from Tatar raids. That same Alexander annexed the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, which had been created by Napoleon under the name of the Kingdom of Poland, in order to eliminate the bridgehead on the western border from which anyone could launch an attack on Russia, coming out immediately to the north of the Pripet Marshes on the shortest road to Moscow, and at the same time threatening with a flanking movement towards St Petersburg.

And similarly Alexander II gave away Alaska. The safety of the Empire was not only not strengthened by this Russian holding in America, but it also served as a bone of contention with the British. At the same time the Empire couldn’t maintain adequate garrisons there and the number of colonists was miniscule. That is, the retention of this territory at that time weakened the security of the Empire. Now the situation is different, and Alaska would not only not be given away, but if necessary it would have been worth requesting its return (then Russia could close completely one of the two entrances to the Arctic Ocean and would take full control of the northern part of the Pacific Ocean).

I would like to point out that the western borders of the USSR almost completely corresponded to the western borders of the Russian Empire established by Catherine the Great, under whom the European border of Russia more or less replicated the western border of Kievan Rus.

And this is no coincidence. In Europe, in neither the 19th nor the 18th century did anyone draw borders according to the area of where this or that people lived.

On the contrary, different tribes, finding themselves within the borders of one stable state system, gradually merge into one people. States sought to secure their borders as much as possible using the natural environment (mountains, rivers, seas etc) as the population back then was relatively small and no one could afford the cost of maintaining permanent border guards and powerful garrisons for border defence.

So the natural, protected border of Russia is Catherine’s border or Stalin’s border. The border of Alexander I is actually ideal. It even comes with the bonus of Poland and Finland, which would make a successful attack on Russia from the West impossible in principle. But the ideal is rarely achievable, however here it is worth striving towards the border of the greatest of the Russian empresses and of the most prominent Russian ruler of the 20th century. And if in Ukraine it is possible to return to the western border of the USSR, then this should be done, and if conditions don’t currently permit this, then we need to change the conditions not adapt to them.

But, as I said, Ukraine is just an example – it’s the same everywhere.

The Union of Fraternal Nations somehow didn’t work out for us. It didn’t work out precisely because the pro-forma state system, from the moment of its inception, effectively started to strive towards becoming real. Even if this wasn’t understood by the people who were at the head of the republics, this was the collective subconscious drive of the local ruling class – to become their own boss (seeing as they had their own state). And this will happen in any revived Union (whether communist or capitalist).

A state of Russian people is also not an option. For what do you do with the non-Russians, starting with the Kasimov Tatars? And how do you define Russianness? According to the passport, or the last name, by genotype, at your own choice, according to place of residence? For how many generations? Why this way and not that way? Can a Russian become a non-Russian (as the Ukrainians are currently doing) or a non-Russian become a Russian, as did Catherine II and Stalin. Which borders do you use to determine a national of the Russian people (those of Kalita, Ivan III, Ivan IV, Catherine II, Alexander I, Stalin or Putin)? Why in these ones and not others? What should be done with people and territories that don’t become part of the Russian state? What role would the Yakuts play in the state of Russian people and who would be master of their territories? And what about the Buryats?

The only thing possible is to create a Russian State, which from time immemorial has united different peoples in a uniform comfortable society. And if the state functions according to the principle of equal union of different peoples, then it is all the same to it how many different peoples there are – twenty or two hundred. And it can include within its borders any people where it is both possible and advisable.

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