Maidan 2014
© Brendan HoffmanBerkut riot police throw stones at anti-government protesters, who are throwing rocks in return, on Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev,
There is a very sound argument to be made that 'Putin's war in Ukraine' was started not by Russia at all but by the Ukrainians on 14 April 2014. Look up what happened on that day in Kiev. The new Ukrainian government led by acting president Oleksandr Turchynov declared an 'anti-terrorist operation' (ATO) on Donbass rebels. The latter had done nothing more than mirror the Maidan revolt (sans the false flag terrorist snipers' attack) in order to oppose it by seizing government administration buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk. Instead of negotiating with the still small band of rebels, the ATO sent the Ukrainan army against the people of the Donbass. Kiev was first to deploy tanks, warplanes, mortar, and artillery in Ukraine doing so against Donbass's largely ethnic Russian population in fairly indiscriminate matter. Villages were subject to strafing and bombing from the air.

It did not stop there.

In Mariupol, some 20 policemen, who rejected Kiev's Madian regime, holed up in their headquarters, and Ukrainian tanks and neofascist fighters destroyed the building and those inside. On 2 May 2014, pro-Kiev militants carried out a pogrom in Odessa, burning alive some 45 anti-Maidan picketers. None of this was reported in Westerm media or condemned by Western governments. To the contrary, Washington and Brussels offered words of encouragement about the new 'democratic Ukraine' and showered funding on Kiev. It was only after all of the terrorism noted above that Russia intervened to buttress the rebels, doing so with assistance, weapons, volunteer fighters, and small numbers of troops. Moscow did not militarily intervene until the rebel forces were threatened with encirclement and annihilation in late summer 2014.

After another Russian intervention in early 2015 to stave off a similar threat to the Donbass rebels, the first Minsk agreement set the pattern of a de-escalated slow-burning frozen conflict that rumbled at low-level until 24 February 2014. Those eight years saw the low-simmering civil war include continued shelling of the Donbass civilian population. Most of the several thousand Donbass civilians killed in this period were victims of Ukrainian fire, not Donbass and certainly not Russian fire. Military casualties hit both sides. In this way, Putin's invasion is not the beginning of a new war but rather a massive escalation of an ongoing one that was fueled by the West and set in motion with relish by nationalist Kiev.

It didn't have to be this way. As the West was funneling assistance to the future Maidan revolutionaries in the form of grants, jobs, protest training, organizational methods, and social networking, none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski oddly enough in 2011 offered a different vision of the way things might transpire. His was an attitude towards Ukraine's development and Russia's own that advised patience rather than telescoping history through revolutionary machinations on some Maidan. He noted that the Viktor Yanukovych and Ukraine's three previous presidents had been "freely" elected. Yanukovych was not just Ukraine's legitmate president, but he was moving Ukraine to EU membership and intensifying cooperation with NATO. Brzezinski envisaged that if in the next five or six years there was further "consolidation of Ukrainian statehood" and "concentration on better relations with Russia and avoidance of head-on conflicts with Russia", then a "sea-change would occur in the Russian psyche" in which they would accept the reality of Ukraine as a separate state and people. Brzezinski's instinct here was right. If the process had been allowed to proceed without Western interference and provocations that eschewed patience, diplomacy, and evolutionary change, an organic development of this kind could have led to this optimistic scenario (leaving aside the additional complication of NATO expansion to Ukraine, which Russia would never accept).

Alas, that somewhat hopeful scenario was never allowed to play out. Washington and Brussels thought it better to deploy tens of billions of dollars in order to create a network of pro-Western activists, many of them intensely anti-Russian and some neofascists. Internationally, Russian-Western relations were additionally burdened by illegal Western gambits in Libya and Syria. NATO continued to insist ever more defiantly of Moscow's interests that Ukraine and Georgia would some day be alliance members. Yanukovych indeed deepened Kiev's engagement with NATO and the EU. The EU's offer of an association agreement to Kiev, even as it shunned any ties with Moscow and its Eurasian Economic Union pushed matters. Even Brzezinski thought Yanukovych's hope for Ukrainian membership in the EU in eleven years to be too optimistic, as he noted in the same talk.

Most importantly, the West rejected the patience that Brzezinski's approach implied. It apparently lacked the confidence that its own model was inherently attractive enough that in time it would win out in Ukrainian eyes over time, and careers in neo-imperialist Washington could not wait. Western-funded, openly self-declared revolutionaries demanded that Yanukovych fulfill the dream of EU membership then and now in 2014 with the proposed association agreement. When he demurred, the mass demonstrations which grew gradually more violent and infiltrated by neofascists, who then executed their false flag snipers massacre gunning down both their fellow oppositionists and police, setting off Yanukovych's overthrow from power. When the demonstrations seemed to peter out around the New Year holidays, US State Department official Victoria Nuland, the US ambassador to Ukraine, and two US senators appeared before the demonstrators and urged them to continue the protest โ€” a clearcut violation of the Helsinki Final Accords.

As confrontation intensified, rather than attempting to head off chaos and support the Moscow-supported German- and French-sponsored regime-opposition agreement that would be scuttled by the snipers, Washington and Brussels stood aside warning that any violence would be Yanukovych's fault. Yanukovych was overthrown and Maidan Kiev declared war on its eastern 'beetles', vatniki, and 'non-people' (nelyudie) - untermenshchen in short.

It is most ironic that in his talk, Brzezinski revealed that in recent meetings he had with Yanukovych, who is now mentioned as nothing but famously corrupt and pro-Russian, the soon to be overthrown Ukrainian president had confided that by 2022 Ukraine would be an EU member.

Eight months seems awfully little time to achieve that goal now.
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu

Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: Russian Tselostnost': Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored four well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the "New Cold War" (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia's North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia's Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia's Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.