Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Guest Post - Ukraine: The View from Poland

Sunflowers at Museum of Folk Architecture and Ethnography in Pyrohiv, Kyiv, Ukraine
The following comes from our friend in Poland, Paweł Kasperek. Go easy on him, for English is not his first language. He speaks from the heart and he's closer to this than all of us. Take it away, Paweł ...

A quick summary of the first few days of Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022.

“Yet across the gulf of space (...), intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds 

I never imagined I would be writing those words. As I write, I fervently hope this doesn't escalate into World War 3...

Where did this all start? With Vladimir Putin realising Ukraine is not gonna fall over from occupation of just parts of its territory? With Putin's rise to power in Moscow itself? In my humble opinion, it started in 1989 as Berlin Wall fell and young KGB officer in Dresden watched as his world collapsed around him.

It is now third time I see the world literally change trajectory in my life. First was 1989 "Fall of the Nations" as one after another Soviet satellites broke chains and went for new life of freedom and democracy - and prosperity. Second was 9-11 when USA - triggered by righteous anger at barbaric attack on its civilians - embarked on futile quest to change the Middle East into secular democracy. In the process, watch on European defence grew weaker and weaker, as brigade after brigade got removed, and politicians in the West were all too happy talking about "out of area" while perceiving internal political feuds as more important than threat slowly but surely gathering in the East. President after US president seeked "reset" or "cooperation" with about the only US politician clearly seeing Putin was McCain: When I see into his eyes, I see three letter: KGB. Alas, paths not taken... 

Meanwhile Putin busied himself rebuilding his Empire, on dual track of reforming and modernising armed forces, which are to large degree voluntary professionals now -  and of forming economic-political web of influence into Europe, and to a degree even into US. Every new pipeline, every lucrative investment in Russia, every politician retiring to Russian firm board of executives made us more entangled in this web. His propagandists, especially online under guise of "concerned commenters" have fueled flames of political debate, supporting most radical, aggressive voices on left and right alike, turning already difficult path to consensus almost impossible.

He went about recollecting Soviet republics - now independent - into de-facto protectorates needing to heed every command from Moscow.  Belarus was easiest to coopt, with local strongman painting himself into corner with increasingly blatant and brutal oppression of own society, making him dependent on Putin's support. Kazakhstan was seized when local protests gave occasion to intervene on behalf of threatened government. Ukraine slipped away twice from his grasp, first when 2004 revolution forced democratic elections, and later when Putin's satrap Yanukovych was forced to flee by angry nation. Putin elected early on the path of bringing Ukraine back into his colonial fold with capture of Crimea and Donbas, but was unable to trigger general collapse. Instead, those first conquests hardened Ukrainian patriotism and gave their armed forces badly needed combat experience.

Eventually at some point Putin has committed the cardinal sin of the drug dealer - he started smoking own propaganda stuff... And he believed Ukraine is really house of cards that will collapse when kicked with airborne troops boot. And West will do nothing.

I believe situation in the Kremlin is not dissimilar now to 3rd September 1939 in Berlin, when exasperated Hitler fumed at his sycophants: WAS NUN? What now? - after hearing UK and France kept their word and declared war. As I speak Russian banks are ejected from SWIFT system, and even Germany started sending Stingers and ATGMs to Ukraine.  Some of those missiles sent earlier by US and Poland possibly brought down helicopters assaulting airport near Kiev, and - if reports are true - 2 to 4 of paratroopers-packed Il-76s.

If Ukrainians reports are correct, and I think considering scale and intensity of fight, they are,  Russia suffered heaviest losses since the WW2, counted in thousands in mere days, overshadowing losses in Chechnya and even Afghanistan which accounted for 10k soviet troops, but over span of 10 years.

I don't know how long Kiev will hold out - maybe a month as Warsaw did in 1939 - but even when it falls Putin will have to contend with nation half the size of his own, supplied from safe havens in neighbouring NATO and fighting guerilla war with fervour borne of anger at being invaded for reason no more than wanting to elect own leaders and to join European club of free trade and prosperity.

Only thing I fear now is Putin will decide to up the ante even more and go for war with NATO as well. We have seen how detached from reality he is in his decision-making. He wants not only Baltics back, Poland and half Germany as well. He of course would fail  -he can't even deal with Ukraine for now - but that would probably led to him using nukes in last attempt to scare world into submission...

Good news is that unlike dictators in 1939, he faces a society much more autonomous and proactive. The very fact he had to arrest over thousand people in Moscow and Petersburg, for protesting the war, gives us hope. As the scale of carnage filters back into the society, the protests might grow strong enough to force the outcome Putin fears the most: his own deposition. As one wise man said, Russians love their children too... 

Pray for Ukraine


  1. Excellent post, Pawel. We here in America have been fed a sanitized and often one-sided vision of Putin, a stud-muffin lumberjack patriot of Mother Russia, no longer paranoid and conspiratorial.

    And even worse than that view, our own State Department seems to have bought the vision hook-line-and-sinker.

    What we're looking at is not dissimilar to what happened at the beginning of the Pacific War. Who was to blame there? Imperial Japan and their grasping need for resources and room? Or America and the British Empire who kept them shut out of any legal access to those resources? Or was it the Imperial Japanese who invaded China and Manchuria? Or the Chinese who, some say, prodded the Japanese? Or could it be traced back to Japan's struggles with Russia, both Czarist and Soviet?

    We have only been given bits and boops of information. Over at Lone Star Parsons' blog, a couple days ago he pointed out that there is a religious scism between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, having to do with the UOC separating from the ROC. And as we followers of history and all it's myriad stupidities, there's nothing like a religious war to really screw things up.

    Please keep us updated with what you see and hear over there, closer to what's actually happening.

    1. Late 1930s had many similarities. Hitler was considered realist and even favorable alternative to communist Germany. He spent considerable effort building influence like British fascist party of certain Mosley, or German-American Bund. Up to invasion of Poland he had string of diplomatic victories, but he secretly wanted a war, to avenge ww1 defeat. Putin similarily wants to avenge fall of the Berlin Wall, and subsequent fall of Soviet Union. Having spent his entire life trying to subvert other states he is totally incapable of understanding popular movements that dont need foreign inspiration.

    2. Also, regarding Imperial Japan of 1930s, I presume had they stopped at say, Manchuria, there would be no war in the Pacific. But series of escalations led to attempt at conquest of whole China, which was surefire to provoke US, especially with Japanese brutality evident in events like rape of Nanjing. US applied the sanctions, and Japan reacted with launching total war, even if their leaders were very in doubt of victory. Much is said of US and UK viewing Japanese thru racial stereotypes Lens, but Japanese themselves saw West as weak and decadent.

    3. Look up Nanking and understand the history there over many years BEFORE Japan did anything. And then remember the 100 MILLION murdered by Mousey Tongue in the more recent past!

  2. Thank you Pavel! Your perspective is important for us to read. My own friends in Hungary and Czech Republic have not yet responded.

    You have used the only McCain quote worthy of repeating. I think in the US only our President Trump had the measure of Putin; all the rest have either colluded, appeased or ignored him. The Germans who laughed at Trump's call to spend what NATO membership requires are now seeing he was right, as he was about relying on Russian-supplied energy.
    We join you in prayers.
    Boat Guy

  3. Of course, one dare not mention the actions in 2014 where east Ukraine and Crimea were disenfranchised to make sure the "right" man "won" the Ukraine elections, eh?

  4. Well stated Pavel, clear and concise. I remember a saying attributed to Stalin...."Nowadays wars are not declared, they simply start." Once KGB, always KGB.

  5. Pawel - Thank you very much for your perspective. I thought your comment on the third time the world changing trajectory the third time in your life very perceptive, as that has exactly been the same experience for myself as well if I think about it.

    Would you feel comfortable in theorizing what the world might look like if Putin loses? Does another strong personality break in, or does the CIS fragment?

    1. First, dont divide up a skin from a bear that's still in the forest. Which is Polish equivalent of saying dont count your chickens before they hatch, but is more appriopriate...
      Second, I have no idea. Oceans of ink were spilled trying to deduce why Germany went nazi after ww1, yet democratic,at least in the west, after much harsher defeat in WW2. We dont know how harsh will be Putins defeat, or what form it will take, popular revolution or palace coup, or major war with NATO... And that's just beginning. Actions of way too many actors can have influence, from internal players to West in generał and China. One thing that's certain that's Russia had very little experience with democratic government and it was not that good. But same goes for Japan in 1945, ne?

    2. Very serious stuff. I listened to Condi Rice the other day. In her option Putin is not the same man that she dealt with. He much less stable.

    3. But at least we have OUR "stable" Biden to counterbalance him, eh?

      As well as the rest of our fine "leadership" in the West...

    4. Pawel - Thanks for the response.

      For Japan - something I know a very little about - it was as much cultural in terms of how their culture worked which involved, to some extent, total defeat. That culture is different from other cultures of course and so I do not know how it would play out in the CIS. But certainly Japan has not demonstrated any of its pre 1945 tendencies in politics or international affairs.

  6. Operation RYAN sums up Putins origins. He was mentored by Andropov ‘The Butcher of Belgrade” himself; the paranoid KGB head and former Soviet President. His plan thus far has striking similarities.

  7. Thank you for your thoughts. We in the USA, supposedly free, have a difficult time finding the truth.

  8. Thank you for this piece, Pawel. A breath of clean thinking on the edge of the rmists from war.

  9. Bravo Zulu Mr. Kasperek & appreciate Sarge shearing your narrative / observations.
    Moral cowards & cultists always get it in the neck eventually; hopefully a motivated & morally courageous world can develop and execute a plan to once and for all neturalize this reprehensible coward & his support system before he executes a nuclear disaster.

  10. Pawel- Thank you for your valuable insights, and the excellent history lesson which Americans have never heard before.

    Prayers for peace for all, or as much as possible, and that escalation by a madman is not inevitable.
    Freedom is not free, and those who have tasted it are usually willing to pay a price to keep their freedom.

    John Blackshoe

  11. Well done Pawel, well done, indeed!

  12. Thank you Pawel for your insight on these world events.

    And prayers not only for Ukraine, but also for Poland, who it looks like will be on the receiving end of all the refugees who are trying to get out of the way of danger.

  13. Pawel, if may be so familiar, thank you. It's good to hear the perspective from someone who lives so near to the trouble. Your English is much better than any attempt a Polish I might make, so any flaws are irrelevant.
    I disagree with you, in that I'm against Ukraine, because of their corruption and their friendship with corrupt regimes (including that of my own country, the US). I believe Putin and Russia have largely been forced into a very uncomfortable corner by NATO/US encroachments upon their borders; I'm not sure if that justifies the recent actions.
    Regardless of the lack of agreement, there's no reason for disrespect between us, so I say again, as courteously as I can, thank you for sharing your views.
    --Tennessee Budd

  14. "...attempt AT Polish I might make..."
    As you can see, I even make mistakes in my native language!
    --Tennessee Budd

  15. Pawel, thank you. I'm always looking for new information so I can sort through it and make up my mind on my own. I hate being fed the same story six different ways. I have a strong "bovine excrement" (BS) detector, and can usually tell when someone is shoveling crap at me. So, thank you for a fresh perspective.

  16. Thank you Pawel. This is the best narrative that I have read about the situation in The Ukraine and Eastern Europe as well.

  17. Very interesting Pavel, I was captivated. To me, as an untrained observer, the best possible outcome would be for a clear minded, steady handed person
    to take out Putin and put a stop to this insanity before more people die and cities destroyed.

  18. https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-energy-gas-russia-ukraine/
    this is possibly the most important thing to do right now...
    sanctions so far already did hurt Moscow, but this is only one that can make true dent in Putin's finance


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