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Stalinist solidarity: Communists protest outside the Ukrainian embassy in London in May (credit: PA)

With Russia's seizure of the Crimea, one European state has annexed the territory of another through force of arms for the first time since the Second World War. While since 1945 there have been cases of European states sending in their troops to occupy the territory of their neighbours — Turkey in Cyprus, Serbia in Croatia and Bosnia, Armenia in Azerbaijan, Russia in Georgia — this has always been done by the establishment of proxies and a proclamation of "independence" of these puppet states, never through the formal annexation of another state's territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin's behaviour has broken what had seemed a very solid, unbreachable taboo.

One might have imagined that this would have been universally condemned by British politicians and opinion-formers. Putin has, however, found his defenders, or at least apologists, across the political spectrum. They include the usual suspects — those who can be relied upon to stand up for the West's enemies whoever they may be — but also more unlikely converts. It encompasses figures who have consistently been pro-Moscow and who now have great influence upon the decisions of the Labour party and also former Conservative party leadership hopefuls who had been strong Cold Warriors. These apologists for the Kremlin have not been bribed, blackmailed or otherwise cajoled; they are taking the positions they are due to misguided ideology.

The London-based Australian journalist John Pilger has since the Sixties and the Vietnam War been seen by some as an intrepid lone voice willing to uncover the machinations of powerful, opaque vested interests and to stand up bravely to the perfidy of the United States — a journalistic Noam Chomsky with an Antipodean accent, if you will.

So what did Pilger have to say in the Guardian about the overthrow of the brutal and deeply corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych after its forces had opened fire on protesters? "In February, the US mounted one of its proxy ‘colour' coups against the elected government of Ukraine . . . Since Washington's putsch in Kiev — and Moscow's inevitable response in Russian Crimea to protect its Black Sea fleet — the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the ‘Russian threat'."  

In Pilger's world, the United States is the aggressor and Russia's invasion of the Crimea-Ukrainian, not Russian territory whatever he might imagine — is merely an act of self-defence. The "Russian threat" — all too real when parts of your state have already been annexed, Russian forces, albeit without insignia, have entered the east of your country and are supporting surrogate militias there and the Russian army is massing on your borders — is merely a US-contrived chimera.

A month later Pilger wrote, again in the Guardian, "Why do we tolerate the threat of another world war in our name? . . . For the first time since the Reagan years, the US is threatening to take the world to war . . . Having masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev, Washington's planned seizure of Russia's historic, legitimate, warm-water naval base in Crimea failed." There was I thinking that Crimea had been seized by Russia — but no, Pilger tells us that Russia had merely  resisted the US's nefarious plans. This article was so outlandish — quoting supposed victims of "pro-Ukrainian Nazi radicals" from spurious, since deleted Facebook pages — that the Guardian's own Moscow correspondent, Shaun Walker, described it as "inexcusable".
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Philip Arlington
October 15th, 2014
8:10 PM
Most of the article is sound but the last sentence is a nonsensical rhetorical flourish. The EU is working hard to destroy the sovereignty of every single nation in Europe and has already made giant strides in that direction, but even in a worse case scenario a resurgent Russia will only seize the nations of Eastern Europe.

Robert Oulds
August 14th, 2014
4:08 PM
Mr Mosbacher's attack on the Bruges Group film "Someone had Blunder'd" about the catastrophe in Ukraine disappointed me but should it have surprised me? Released in late March of this year, readers may have forgotten such a modest film by now so, to remind you, it was an attempt to understand the Russian (and therefore Mr Putin's) perspective and be critically analytical of the EU's clumsy attempts to realise its "drang nach osten" ambitions. Imposing its economic model as well as foreign and defence policy upon Ukraine. An analysis of which was sadly lacking from Mr Mosbacher’s article. Leading Conservatives were assembled for this film to make predictions that have since unfortunately come true The US and EU sponsored regime change of a democratically elected president in Ukraine was never going to end well. Billions of dollars were invested in opposition groups by the US and EU spent €496 million. Only the most ardent néocon would have failed to notice that this will exacerbate divisions in an already divided country. The state of Ukraine today is a sad outcome of Communist attempts to mix up nations and boundaries, disrupt natural historical ties and create a new Soviet man by turning original nations into mere ethnic residua and historical leftovers. Crimea is not the only example of this. The Bolsheviks also abolished the once independent ethnically Russian Republics of Donetsk that emerged during and after the First World War. Ukraine in its current shape could have been saved by several decades of peaceful development with a modest and sophisticated foreign policy, respecting the geopolitical position of the country and the rights of the regions, not just the wishes of one part of the country. The western backed overthrow of a government that wanted to chart a neutral course between Russia and the EU has now made this impossible. True conservatives know that attempts at radical change represent a fundamental threat in such a fragile, heterogeneous and politically sensitive country. How disappointing when people abandon the pragmatism of national self-interest, the virtue of peace-making and adopt a tribal loyalty to the EU as "us"? This is not a football match. There are consequences for British jobs and lives are being lost. The Bruges Group is not funded by Russians, not pro- nor anti-Putin. Unlike some political organisations in London that according to the Electoral Commission receive funding, in exchange for a game of tennis, from Russians. What is my defence of our film? We told you so! Robert Oulds, Director - Bruges Group

hegels advocate
July 9th, 2014
6:07 PM
How are our "inadequate western leaders" expected to respond to the evil dwarf Putin? Why assume Putin and his experts know what they`re doing or what`s going on ? The best of capitalism is over for rich countries (Paul Mason). A revolution or two (or three)is called for by the `Russell Brand` brigades. Caitlin Moran`s novel `How To Build A Girl` has been published. And bravo`d by Julie Burchill. England`s own Pussy Riot artists.

John Torode
July 8th, 2014
11:07 AM
Neo Stalinist? Proto fascist? Gangster state-capitalist? Whatever. Retired KGB boss Putin's appalling, 21st century Russia is - in foreign affairs - flexible, sophisticated, cynical, expansionist, brutal where necessary, and it rings rings round the EU, NATO and the Obama administration. Michael Mosbacher is to be congratulated for exposing Putin's "useful idiots" in this country and the influence they wield. The Guardian's Seamus Milne, a charming, intellectual, Wykehamist, and a life long Stalinist apologist, has held a number of opinion-forming editorial posts. Columnist and best selling author John Pilger (the unthinking man's Noam Chomsky,) accuses poor pacific Obama of "threatening to take the world to war" over Ukraine. Andrew Murrey, a leading light in the ultra Stalinist Communist Party of Britain is more importantly the powerful CEO of Labour's paymaster, Unite, the country's biggest, and probably most aggressive, union. Where Mosbacher goes wrong is to attack the Thatcherite Bruges Group for becoming another "apologist for Putin". Apparently John Redwood, Bernard Jenkins, Lord Tebbit etc are "blinded by their hatred of the EU" when they blame the EU expansionism for provoking Russian intervention in Ukraine. Surely it is possible both to regard Russia as the dangerous enemy of everything we hold dear..........and to blame the EU, NATO and the Obama administration for several years of ill thought out provocation over Ukraine. Of course Russia was going to respond. And all too predictably our inadequate Western leaders had not the slightest idea how to respond. If you are going to tweak the bear's tail, it would be wise to know what you are going to do when he shows his claws.

hegel`s advocate
July 2nd, 2014
3:07 PM
"a rational motive for taking Russia`s side" still sides with a (competing/corrupt) dinosaur-ideology. Peter Hitchens wants no engagement with the intellectual and cultural evolution in Uruguay ? Is he just being twee and quaint in his country`s "interests"/sovereignty he claims to put first? Or is he one of the idle (or workaholic) rich of today that Sir Ken Clark (of Civilisation) said were "as ignorant as swans." in his own day? It`s said the BBC producers of the new Civilisation2 series are in a stupor. Jeremy Paxman says Newsnight is run by 13 year olds. The London media elite call the most sadistic scum of the earth "radicalised" or "angry" muslims or "insurgents" or "militants". Caliphate/islamist- clones factories and slave labour will solve the unemployment problems there. Isis/Loco Haram/the Caliphate are also "as ignorant as swans". Zizek calls the present political dialogue "tartling". In Iraq it`s the violent tartling of the "male epic" dinosaur-ideologies in competitive conflict.

Peter Hitchens
July 2nd, 2014
1:07 PM
Michael Mosbacher seems unable to accept that anyone might have a rational motive for taking Russia’s side in its current contest with the EU. He deals at length with various unreconstructed Cold Warriors of the Left, and I would concede that they (and their equally unreconstructed counterparts on the Right) may be confused by emotional loyalties. But he is I think less comfortable when he turns to the conservatives who have declined to endorse the actions of the Euromaidan. They are, he says ‘blinded by their hatred of the EU’. Like many opponents of British membership of the EU, I do not hate that entity, though I think it beyond doubt that it is the principal threat to the sovereignty of this country, whose interests ( as a conservative) I put first. In fact, I can see that it is some ways the best answer to the problem of German expansionism which has troubled all Europe since 1870. It is the continuation of Germany by other means, involving a tactful and gentle abolition of other people’s sovereignty, and using (so far) rather more civilized and peaceable means than those used in 1914 and 1939. Kept within limits, we can all smile upon that. But the real issue in both 1914 and 1939 was the desire of Germany to expand eastwards, and the countervailing desire of Russia to limit that expansion. Until the Association Agreement (which Mr Mosbacher rightly concedes is both political and military, and not merely economic), this eastward expansion had remained within uncontentious or at least tolerable limits, thanks to Russian weakness and (later) to Russian realism. But if Mr Mosbacher’s assessment of the Association Agreement is right, and it is, its acceptance in Kiev means the extension of EU power into Ukraine’s laws, its enforcement of its frontiers, its internal civil powers, its armed forces, its currency and its economy. And so it is a major eastward move, judged by the laws of physics, geometry or geography. Ukraine, previously neutral between the two blocs, has now aligned itself with the EU. This is obviously important, just as it would have been had it gone the other way. Traditional conservatives are quite reasonable in concluding that this is aggressive, rash and ill-considered. Neoconservatives have a different problem. The true nature of their position (cloudy in theory) reveals itself to them in practice, and they are perhaps alarmed to discover that they are, willy-nilly, partisans of the EU, and the EU is a neo-conservative project fully supported since its inception by the United States. I feel their pain, but they would be better off wondering how they got themselves into such company than in railing at those who have learned from history that European territorial aggression seldom ends well. Peter Hitchens 2 Derry St London W8 5TS

hegels advocate
June 26th, 2014
6:06 PM
Reading the title of Lenin`s pamphlet `Imperialism:the highest stage of capitalism` provoked the image of Clegg,Cameron and Milliband holding up their identical free copies of the Sun sports pages. I doubt if even Andy Warhol could have created images as vacuous,nihilist and submissive as these. The Noumenon`s New Clothes of british politics. The writer Will Self advocates reading Debord`s book `The Society of the Spectacle` for understanding the machiavellianisms of it all. Here we can see how Putin (and Pope Francis,Isis,Loco Haram,Greece`s Golden Dawn (to name just a few) are also "useful idiots" in what the philosopher Zizek calls global "tartling". Michael Mosbacher adds extra details to Zizek`s listing of the actual euro-fascist parties that support Putin. It`s essentially a "male epic" industrial scale anti-civilisation career/suicide movement for back-brain impulses and ideological taqiyya- by- any other- name. There`s something `rejected by women/still in the closet S/M gay male` about the ugly misogynist islamists and fascists. No guitars for the islamists only guns and demented anti-western, anti-Israel islamo-rap. How long before Isis produce their own social media-savvy version of the Village People`s `Down at the YMCA` called `Down At The YMIA` with a snuff video stuffed with `selfies` showing them murdering and raping men,women and children ? The space-age feudalism of the capitalist/islamo dystopias destroys the very people who create it. Simulacra theology to the right of them,sublime objects of ideology to the left of them,onward onward tartled the six hundred. Is the only real,radical option for Left and Right the transformation into utopia ? Viva Uruguay,Israel,the UK and the USA .

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