Theater of Cruelty

Zelensky's leadership in a new light: What is not talked about behind Putin's invasion

UKRAINE / It seems that the United States deliberately did everything to trigger a Russian invasion. Ukraine is a victim of this brutal game. For Russia, there are five very limited requirements.


In 1990-93, Moscow given promises that NATO would never be extended to the east. Nevertheless, NATO was expanded to 14 countries, despite strong Russian protests. I even listened to the Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakovs criticism of Western breach of promise during a lecture in Oslo in 1997. As of 2008 said Vladimir Putin that NATO membership for Ukraine would be prevented by all means, not because the country would join a "Western club", but because a NATO membership would become a platform for advancing US weapons, including possible nuclear weapons, a few miles from Moscow .

Putin says this is a threat "to the existence of our state", as the United States perceived the Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962.

But in the west was Russia neglected. Putin now says that this is a threat "to the existence of our state", as the United States perceived the Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962. In a common interpretation of international law, this does not give the right to a war, as little as the Soviet missiles in 1962 could legitimize an American blockade or war. But according to an American interpretation, such is the case preemptive attack legitimately. The legal interpretation is controversial. The Guardian recently wrote that it was completely predictable that a NATO enlargement would eventually end in a war. When NATO's Jens Stoltenberg on 8 January said that it was up to Ukraine to choose, this was in practice a declaration of war. On January 20, I wrote in Klassekampen that we are going as "sleepwalkers" towards a new war.

Vladimir Putin said in his speech on February 24, on the day of Russia's invasion, that the West has refused to talk about Russia's security, and that Russia has had to act. He described five goals behind the invasion: 1) prevent a NATO enlargement to Ukraine; 2) prevent Ukrainian nuclear weapons; 3) support the Russian-speaking republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (which had asked for Russian help); 4) Ukraine's «demilitarization» and 5) «de-Nazification».

It is often said in the media that Putin's goal has been a regime change or an occupation, but according to Putin's speech, these are not explicit Russian goals. One could argue that the war has its own logic, but Moscow's experience of the Cold War Poland and Afghanistan hardly makes an occupation a Russian alternative. According to American military theory, Russia should have joined at least five times as large forces to be able to occupy the country, and so do the Russian generals. When Moscow wanted to occupy a country (Czechoslovakia 1968), it entered with more than ten times as large forces per capita. Military experts know that the Russian forces in Ukraine would never allow Putin to occupy the country. A Russian "Quisling government" is not an option either. It would have demanded an occupation. A division of Ukraine into east and west is possible, but hardly what Moscow wants. For Russia, there are five very limited requirements:


Moscow wants guarantees from Washington and Kyiv about that Ukraine will never join NATO. But the United States has consistently supported membership, despite the fact that everyone knew it would lead to war. I 2014 sa Henry Kissinger that Ukraine should accept a «Finnish solution», a pact that can give the country neutrality, but with full access to the Western economy (see «Friendship and Aid Pact» 1948).

A signature here had solved the problem. But USA was not interested. On November 10, 2021, a "Strategic Partnership Charter" was established between the United States and Ukraine, which would open the door for Kyiv in NATO. Bill Clinton's Assistant Secretary of Defense Chas Freeman said that Ukraine in practice became part of NATO. Putin said Moscow had to intervene to prevent one fait accompli. It seems that the United States deliberately did everything to trigger a Russian invasion.

2 Nuclear weapons

Ukraine's Ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, said in April 2021 that Ukraine would develop nuclear weapons if not included in NATO. Russian intelligence claimed that Ukraine was working to develop nuclear weapons, and that "the United States knew about it." President Volodymyr Zelenskyj said in his speech in Munich on 19 February this year that Ukraine would abandon its nuclear-weapon-free status (the Budapest Memorandum). This is not said if one is not close to having nuclear weapons (Japan, which in practice has nuclear weapons, has not said that they leave this status).

Ukraine would develop nuclear weapons if not included in NATO.

In Moscow the alarm went off. Five days later, on the morning of the invasion, Putin said: "They are seeking nuclear weapons, we will not allow this to happen." The invasion was launched immediately. This may explain why Russian forces, to begin with, were less prepared than the Ukrainian ones. A covert development of nuclear weapons often takes place in nuclear power plants, and the Russians prioritize early control of a couple of nuclear power plants. But the question is: Why did Zelensky make this statement in such a tense situation? He should have known that this would trigger a Russian attack. Had anyone tricked or instructed him to say so?

3 Donetsk and Lugansk

The war in eastern Ukraine has been going on for 8 years with more than 13 dead, including 000-3000 civilians, and 4000 million Ukrainian refugees to Russia. This has been one of Europe's most protracted wars. After Franco-German mediation, Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE signed the Minsk Agreement in 1,5, which provided relative autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk. But the security services in Ukraine have not given their support to the agreement. Right-wing radical forces have continued to bomb. In practice, they have vetoed the president's decisions.

From 16 February this year, according to the OSCE, they launched a new bombing offensive against these eastern areas as a prelude to an invasion. 60 – 000 Ukrainian forces were gathered along the border. Russian authorities presented Ukrainian documents from January this year stating that Ukraine would invade Donetsk and Lugansk from 100 February. On February 000, Putin said the situation was untenable for the Russian-speaking population. One had to strike preemptively. This operation was tasked with ending the eight-year war. The question is: Why did Ukraine plan for a military operation that they knew would trigger an immediate Russian attack?

4 Weapons of Mass Destruction

Since 2015, the CIA has trained thousands of Ukrainian paramilitary forces to deal with a Russian attack. The Pentagon said it had been preparing Ukrainian forces for war with Russia for eight years. From 2017, the United States built up a significant military infrastructure in Ukraine, as if it were a member of NATO. The United States allowed Ukraine to develop nuclear weapons, and the Pentagon has supported more than eleven biological laboratories in Ukraine, which had the task of developing deadly bacteria and viruses that could be used militarily. Evidence for these laboratories has existed for several years, and they were definitely aimed at Russia. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in a Senate hearing on March 8: "We are now very concerned that Russian troops […] will seek control [so that these biological substances] can fall into the hands of Russian forces." This was not about civil biological research, but about documented production of deadly weapons (see article below). Putin claimed that Russia would strike out not only such weapons systems, but all offensive weapons systems to stop Ukraine's war in the east, but perhaps more importantly, to reduce the risk of a catastrophic US attack on Moscow. Russia now claims to have knocked out thousands of military installations in Ukraine. This part of the operation seems to be coming to an end.

5 Azov Battalion

A final goal of the operation is said to be a "de-Nazification" of Ukraine. This goal has not been taken seriously in the West. Nazi and fascist groups have had only a few percent in the elections. They are apparently marginal, but they have held a strong position in the security services and in the military. They have waged much of the war in Donetsk and Lugansk. The Azov Battalion with its Nazi symbols was headquartered in Mariupol. It was led by radical Nazis such as Andriy Biletsky and was included in Ukraine's National Guard. This means that they had support at the highest level. Andrij Parubij and Oleg Tjahnybok founded the Ukrainian Nazi Party in 1991. Their "Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center" later changed its name to something more opportune.

Zelensky's military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych argued as early as 2019 for a major war with Russia, which wanted to withdraw from NATO.

Parubij was the commander of Maidan, Secretary of the National Security Council in 2014 and Head of Parliament. Tjahnybok, one of the three leaders of the Maidan, got four ministers in the government, including the Minister of Defense. Dmytro Jarosh became an adviser to the Chief of Defense in 2015. The Nazis have not had high turnout, but they have mobilized tens of thousands of activists, been very violent and succeeded in preventing any peaceful solution to the conflict in the east. Yehvan Karas, the leader of the Nazi group C14 (formerly the youth party of Tyahnybok's party), told the media that they only had 8-10% of the people on the Maidan, but they accounted for 90% of the efficiency. They forced the president to flee. "We have started a war [with Russia]," Karas said. Western states give us weapons because "we like to kill." Peace seems to require the marginalization and disarmament of these groups.


Et Firstly, Question: Why did the United States do everything in its power to get Russia to intervene in Ukraine – in preparation for a NATO enlargement and for a Ukrainian attack on Donetsk and Lugansk? It would inevitably trigger a Russian war in Ukraine. The point is that immediately after Russia intervened, the United States struck with sanctions prepared in the months before the invasion. According to Adam Schiff, chair of the Congressional Intelligence Committee, the United States wants a war against Russia in Ukraine to crack down on Russia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the war could continue for the rest of the year. The US Secretary of Defense says that the war could last for several years. The United States participates with intelligence and leadership and with massive arms support. In short, the United States will "fight to the last Ukrainian", to quote former Deputy Defense Minister Chas Freeman. The United States wants a Russian war that Russia cannot survive, to force a regime change in Russia.



Et other question: Why would the Ukrainian leadership want a war? This is apparently more difficult to understand. Why did Zelensky work for Ukraine to join NATO, become a nuclear power and take Donetsk and Lugansk by force, when all this would definitely trigger a Russian invasion that would destroy Ukraine? Perhaps we find the explanation in the strategic thinking of Zelensky's military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych. He argued already in 2019 for a major war with Russia, to prevent Ukraine in a decade from being absorbed by Russia. He said: "The probability is 99,9 percent that the price of joining NATO is a major war with Russia", and he described in detail how this war would develop, just as we have seen recently. He continued: "Of course [it is best] a major war with Russia and NATO membership as a result of Russia's loss." When it comes to tactics, Arestovych recommends the tactics of the Islamist group ISIL, which uses cruelty against its own civilians. That tens of thousands of Ukrainians will die is not Arestovych's problem.

For me, this puts Zelensky's leadership in a new light. Zelensky won a landslide victory with 73 percent of the vote in the 2019 presidential election with a program for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Donetsk and Lugansk. When he took office as president, he repeated this. But immediately afterwards, Nazi leader Dmytro Yarosh said that if Zelensky insisted, he would "hang in a tree in Khreshchatyk" (the main street in Kyiv). Zelensky had to continue the war. The Azov Battalion was trained by US forces. The war could in all probability have been prevented with the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and with a signature that guaranteed "Ukrainian neutrality". But the United States would not accept these terms. The United States wants a war, and they want to "fight to the last Ukrainian."

A German-Russian "gas and industrial community" would have weakened the United States' role in Europe.

Perhaps the most important thing about this whole strategy was to include Nord Stream II in the sanctions to stop a mutual German-Russian dependence: a German-Russian "gas and industrial community". It would have weakened the role of the United States in Europe and allowed Europe to grow together in a new "coal and steel community", which could prevent a future war in Europe. The war in Ukraine is about Europe's security architecture. And the goal of America's provocative policy was not primarily the war, but the sanctions that would follow the war. Ukraine is a victim of this brutal game.

The existence of the state

Russia had hardly calculated with such a well-prepared sanction offensive as we have seen in recent months. Russia is now being treated like a disobedient boy. A friend of mine once said that "if a dog is pushed into a corner, it bites".

"History shows that economic wars have often turned into real wars," said former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN that nuclear weapons could be used to "threaten the existence of the state," and that US behavior in Ukraine has been described by President Putin as a threat "to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty." This can end really badly.

Article references:

The longer interview with Arestovych about a war with Russia can be found at

The interviews about ISIL etc. can be found in several places:

Robert Gates, 1997. From the Shadows – The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster), pp. 143-149.

Brzezinski on intervention in Afghanistan (Translated from Le Nouvel Observateur, 15-21 January 1998).

Conversations with Lieutenant General Vladimir Cheremnikh, PRIO seminar 1994.

Transcript: Vladimir Putin's Televised Address on Ukraine, Blomberg, 24 February 2022.

US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, US Department of State, 10 November 2021.

Henry A. Kissinger, "How the Ukraine Crisis Ends," The Washington Post, March 6, 2014

John Paul Rathbone, et al., "Military briefing: Russia rethinks line of attack", Financial Times, 1 March 2022.

BBC News, "Ukraine Crisis: Transcripts of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call", 7 February, 2014.

Zach Dorfman, "CIA-trained Ukrainian paramilitaries may take a central role if Russia invades", Yahoo News, January 13, 2022.

Rudling, Per Anders, «The Return of the Ukrainian Far Right: The Case of VO Svoboda», in Ruth Wodak & John E. Richardson, Analyzing Fascist Discourse (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 228-255.

UNHCR Operational Update, Ukraine, December 2016 UNHCR Ukraine Operational Update – December 2016.pdf

United Nations, Meetings Coverage and Press Releases, "Concerned about Ongoing Militarization of Crimea, Human Rights Violations in Eastern Ukraine, Speakers Tell General Assembly Minsk Agreements Must Be Fully Implemented", 20 February 2020.

Poroshenko seeks UN peacekeeping, The Ukrainian Weekly, 1 March 2019

OSCE Daily Report 40/2022, 21 February 2022

Tim Korso, "Russian Intelligence Chief Says Intel Showed Ukraine Was Working on Nukes, US Knew About It", Sputnik News, 3 March 2022.

"Ukrainian Ambassador threatens nuclear disarmament," Der Spiegel, April 15, 2021.

"Zelensky's full speech at the Munich Security Conference", The Kyiv Independent, 9 March 2022.

Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, «Dmytro Yarosh appointed as Advisor to Chief of General Staff», 5 April 2015. Dmytro Yarosh appointed Advisor to Chief of General Staff | Minoborni (

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone

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