Russian Foreign Policy Outside the Framework of Social Media Simulacrum

By Ollie Richardson

One of the most asked questions on the “pro-Russia” side of English-language social media is “why doesn’t Russia recognise the DPR and LPR?”, which in turn leads to the million dollar question “why doesn’t Russia militarily intervene in Donbass?”

Of course, the act of asking questions itself is one of the basic precepts of philosophical enquiry. But, owing to the very fact that a person can leave the West, but the West can’t leave the person, in this instance the aforementioned sentences seem to be not questions, but demands, with an exclamation mark instead of a question mark. But, as is known, there is no smoke without fire, and such a suggestion as the one made by social media experts – recognising the Donbass republics – stemmed from an initial idea. This idea was not conceived in the minds of western “pro-Russia” activists, since (a) they arrived on the scene in 2014, and before this most likely never uttered a single word about Ukraine (Libya, Syria, Iraq maybe, but not Ukraine) and (b) someone who thinks logically and as objectively as possible would instead demand that Ukraine stops shelling Donbass, as opposed to Russia annexing the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. So where did this idea that Russia should (emphasis on “should”, implying some sort of failure by Russia) recognise the DPR and LPR originally come from? Well, in this regard there is no need to venture far from the tree. The author of these lines has already explained where the initial surge of “advice” on social media came from here. But here is a fresh (at the time of writing) example from May 20th, 2018.

The State Duma deputy from the Communist Party faction Yuri Afonin said on the air of the “60 Minutes” program on the TV channel “Russia 1” that all international formats aimed at resolving the issues of Donbass have outlived themselves, and therefore Russia needs to protect its citizens in the region. Afonin, who is deputy chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, claims that Ukraine is striving to move deeper into Donbass in the direction of Donetsk. Thus, according to him, the Russian authorities must take steps, the first of which should be the recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. At the same time, the Russian politician rejects attempts to reach an agreement with Ukraine and Washington, suggesting that Moscow should take radical measures with regard to the problem of the occupied Donbass.

“We have repeatedly stated, as well as the Communist Party faction in the Duma, that there is a need to recognise the LPR and the DPR. Well, obviously, there is no Normandy format, no one is going to listen to us, they are gradually grabbing the territories of the neutral zone, getting closer to Donetsk. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly say: ‘The format has failed, recognise the ‘LDPR’ and protect our citizens’. All attempts to solve something, to reach an agreement with the current Kiev regime and the US, which are rocking the boat of world politics, will not work for us,” said Afonin.

At first, upon hearing these words the “Russia-loving” westerner will immediately nod their head in agreement (like they did when Vladimir Zhirinovsky called to nuke the Bosphorus Strait after Ankara shot down a Russian Sukhoi in Syria), since Russia should save everyone, like Batman. And those who proclaim to be “communists” and “anti-capitalists” will listen to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and become infatuated with what is being suggested. But it is important to ask: what is the Communist Party in 2018? Well, if the history of Pavel Grudinin and Gennady Zyuganov is anything to go by, then today the party is certainly not “Communist” – well maybe in name, but that’s it. And what is more sad is that this party (either knowingly or as a result of external influence) becomes more and more anti-Putin as times passes, under the veil of selling nostalgia for the past.

And it is possible to go even further and say that in and around the disintegration of the USSR, the identity of the Communist Party was torn into pieces along with the Soviet Union due to the country’s elite being purchased for dollars and the barefaced treason of the likes of Yeltsin and Gorbachev. Thus, it’s possible to see that everything was done by the western world to crush the legacy of Lenin and Stalin. And it is the same story in Ukraine, where the Communist Party currently led by Petro Symonenko is now like a heavily diluted version of the same party before the USSR’s dissolution. In fact, this manipulation of the cross-over point of the past and the present has been exploited by all Ukrainian governments since 1991 – for example, today the “Opposition Bloc” positions itself as being anti-war and pro-Russia, but at the same time they flirt with anti-Russia/pro-war oligarchs and actually need their support if they are to even think of winning the 2019 elections.

But alas, it isn’t the Communist Party of the Russian Federation or Ukraine that decides what Russia or Ukraine’s foreign policy is. In Russia this job belongs to Vladimir Putin, who navigated the country out of the cul-de-sac it was driven into by the treacherous elites of the 90’s. And it is a fact that Putin has his own plan when it comes today’s events in Ukraine and Donbass, which is based on a depth of experience that precedes the existence of social media and even the lives of many Twitter and Facebook “experts”. Whilst it is not possible to telepathically read the mind of Putin and his team and to predict literally every move they make vis-a-vis the Ukrainian question, it is possible to use the framework of scientific paradigm formation in order to outline some fundamentals, which in turn can answer many “pro-Russia” social media questions at the same time.

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What is the “Donetsk/Lugansk People’s Republic” in the eyes of International Law?

According to international law, the self-proclaimed DPR/LPR formations exist inside the State of Ukraine, which is a country recognised by the UN. Thus, the DPR/LPR are subjects of Ukrainian law. According to Ukrainian law, the DPR/LPR are (the following text was translated from a private document formulated by the SBU concerning the DPR):

“…a terrorist organisation, the participants of which, on the territory of Ukraine, were consciously, purposefully engaged in the commission of terrorist acts, the use of violence by hostage-taking, murder, torture, intimidation of the population and bodies of authorities, attempts on the lives and health of people, the seizure of administrative buildings of State authorities and local self-governance, and other heavy and especially heavy crimes, which leads to the destabilisation of the societal and political situation in the state.

The main aim of the activities of the specified terrorist organisation is the violent change and overthrow of the constitutional system, seizure of the state power in Ukraine, and also the change of borders of the territory and the state border of Ukraine, by creating the illegal state formation ‘DPR’.

The specified terrorist organisation is stable and has a clear hierarchical structure, which consists of political and power blocs, as well as the distribution of functions among the its participants, who are entrusted with relevant responsibilities according to the plan of joint criminal acts.

At the same time the leaders and participants of the power bloc assume provision of the stability of the terrorist organizations by the Commission of an armed resistance, combating illegal and obstruction of performance of official duties by law enforcement officials and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In turn, representatives of the political bloc were organized to collect and receive material and financial assistance from other members of terrorist organizations and individuals, loyal to their activities, and this ensures the existence of the said terrorist organization.

‘DPR’ has a stable composition of leaders of the said terrorist organizations, which maintain amongst them close relations, subordination of the political parties and the power bloc to the organization leaders, and also, a plan of criminal activities and clear distribution of roles and rules of behaviour of participants to achieve criminal goals.

Participants of the political bloc of the terrorist organizations, according to the plan of joint criminal action, have the following responsibilities:

– creation of so-called bodies of power ‘DPR’ and the organization of their activities;

– the provision of normative-legal acts on behalf of the illegitimate bodies of state authorities of the ‘DPR’;

– organization and conducting of an illegal referendum on the territory of the Donetsk region concerning the recognition of the sovereignty of the illegal state formation ‘DPR’;

– providing informational work aimed at the incitement to commit terrorist acts, and propaganda and dissemination of the ideology of terrorism;

– carrying out agitational propaganda work among the population concerning the activities of the terrorist organization ‘DPR’ with the aim of inclining them to participate in the aforementioned terrorist organization and receiving support for their own activities among residents of the Eastern regions of Ukraine;

– organization of collecting and receiving of material and financial assistance from other members of terrorist organizations and individuals loyal to their activities, as well as its distribution;

– establishment of joint actions with the illegal state formation ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ and its leaders with the aim of coordinating actions, aimed at overthrowing the constitutional order and seizing power in Ukraine, and also actions aimed at changing the boundaries of the territory and the state border of Ukraine in violation of the order established by the Constitution of Ukraine;

– establishment of joint actions with supporters of criminal activity, which are abroad with the purpose of coordinating actions for financial assistance and weapons, as well as attracting foreign nationals to counter law enforcement bodies and the Armed Forces of Ukraine;

– establishment of joint actions with the local and foreign media with the aim of using them for propaganda, highlighting the activities of the ‘DPR’, discrediting the activities of state bodies of Ukraine and those involved in the conducting of anti-terrorist operations and the formation of opinion among the population about the legality of their own actions, as well as calls to overthrow the constitutional order and the seizure of state power in Ukraine, and actions aimed at changing the boundaries of the territory and the state border of Ukraine in violation of the order established by the Constitution of Ukraine;

– providing financial and organizational assistance to members of the power bloc of the ‘DPR’ to ensure their illegal activities, organizational, and other assistance for the establishment and functioning of terrorist groups and illegal paramilitary forces and armed formations;

– providing participants of the ‘DPR’ with transport, logos, and promotional materials, and so on…”

In other words, the DPR/LPR are “terrorist organisations”, but only according to the decree signed by Aleksandr Turchynov in 2014. I.e., no law was ever passed by Poroshenko that officially classifies the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as “terrorist organisations”. Here is another excerpt from another private SBU document explaining this in more complex terms:

“The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine adopted a decision from 13 April 2014 on urgent measures concerning suppressing the terrorist threat and preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which entered into effect by the decree of the President of Ukraine ‘On urgent measures concerning suppressing the terrorist threat and preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine’ No. 405/2014 from 14.04.2014 and according to which the Anti-Terrorist Operation was started on the territory of Ukraine, which continues to this day.

By the order of the head of the anti-terrorist center at the Security Service of Ukraine No. 33/6/a from 07.10.2014 the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk are defined as the regions of carrying out the Anti-Terrorist Operation, in accordance with Article 4 of the Law of Ukraine On combatting terrorism, and military subunits of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine are involved in carrying out the Anti-Terrorist Operation.

Articles 17 and 65 of the Constitution of Ukraine stipulate that the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and ensuring its economic and information security are the most important functions of the state and is the affair of all the Ukrainian people, and that protecting the Motherland, the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and honouring its state symbols are the duty of the citizens of Ukraine. The provisions of Article 25 of the Law of Ukraine On combating terrorism establish that the heads and officials of enterprises, institutions and organizations, and also citizens, who contributed to the terrorist activities, bear responsibility under the law.”

What does all of this really mean? At first the junta in Kiev declared the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in April, 2014, which involved bombing Donetsk and Lugansk into oblivion in order to “liquidate terrorists”. The term of this “operation” expired at the end of April, 2018. And this basically means that after April, 2018 the DPR/LPR are no longer “terrorist formations”. So that is why on February 26th, 2018, the so-called “Law on the Reintegration of Donbass” (also known as “The Law on Specifics of State Policy to Ensure the State Sovereignty of Ukraine in the Temporarily Occupied Territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions”) invented by Poroshenko (it struggled to pass through the Rada but in the end Poroshenko got the needed number of votes) came into force. This Law registered Russia as an “occupier” and, in essence, made “legal” what was previously “illegal” (although since the coup was unconstitutional, absolutely everything the junta in Kiev does is actually illegal), and it laid the foundations for the new “Anti-Terrorist Operation” – called instead the Operation of United Forces, which was launched on April 30th, 2018. The problem here is that the “Reintegration of Donbass” law required changes to the constitution – Article 106 (expansion of Presidential powers) and 85 Part 33.

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So, between 2014 and the first half of 2018 there were “terrorist organisations” in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which “threatened the territorial integrity of Ukraine”, and thus taking military action was “legal”. And from April 30th, 2018 the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are “occupied by Russia”. Why was the change made by Kiev? Because ultimately the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk are Ukrainian citizens – they have a Ukrainian passport (the DPR/LPR passports are not recognised by Kiev). Thus, in the event of a possible war crimes tribunal (such a thing is possible, but not simple to initiate) the Ukrainian “government” could be charged for killing their own people, since it could never be proved that the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are “terrorists” participating in some “hybrid war” against Ukraine. So instead Poroshenko changed the narrative and shifted the blame to the Russian federation for “occupying” Ukrainian territory. I.e., Washington’s plan to lure Russia into Donbass (military operations to liberate Donbass) failed (because of the Minsk Agreements), so the weaker plan B was activated – shifting the economic responsibility for the destruction of Donbass onto Russia.

What is Russia?

It should firstly be mentioned that Russia is not the world’s policeman. It is a country recognised by the UN, like Ukraine. I.e., Ukraine and Russia are SEPARATE countries (not peoples) – a fact that is for some reason ignored by social media. Secondly, Russia is a superpower with nuclear weapons (the most warheads on the planet). The fearful pro-Russia “expert” sat in the West thinks that Russia should use these weapons to attack another State. The Soviet person who either indirectly or directly experienced the Great Patriotic War thinks that there has been enough war on this planet, and a very long period of peace is more preferable. Thirdly, Putin is not “God”. It seems that there is a tendency among the Western “pro-Russia” club to present Putin as someone who owes Joe Bloggs just because he “took an interest” in Russia and posted a couple of Putin photos on Facebook once (or even every day!). It is imagined that Putin should make everyone’s dreams come true because their leaders back home – whether it is Merkel, Macron, May, Trump, Rajoy, etc – refuse to do so. Instead of working hard to improve their own country, the “pro-Russia” westerner insists that Russia/Putin should do it instead, preferably by bombing their own capital city – whether it be Berlin, Paris, Washington, Madrid, etc.

And of course, this way of thinking is understandable – Joe Bloggs never experienced anything other than his own ideology or “culture”, thus aggression and destruction is normal. After all, turn on the TV at any point during the day and it is very probable that some depiction of violence is being broadcasted to millions of people (thank you Hollywood!). And at the end of the day, Joe Bloggs doesn’t want to be responsible for his own life and to become an adult – he wants Putin to do all of this on his behalf, so he doesn’t have to lift a finger! Even if Joe Bloggs travels closer to the Russian world, he is unable to escape the western world, simply because his genes won’t allow it. Thus, instead of calling for Putin to bomb country “X” from his sofa in America, Joe calls for the same thing from Belgrade, Donetsk, or even Moscow. Joe also wants Russia to sweep away “pro-nazi elements” from Ukraine’s government and military, and for Uncle Putin to punish war criminals and to annex Ukraine, but he doesn’t actually know how to implement these ideas. But fortunately, Russian officials do not use social media to probe for advice from cyber-celebrity “experts” concerning foreign policy. And this, much likes Joe Bloggs’ erratic cognitive patterns, is also understandable, because as a rule one shouldn’t listen to the advice of someone who doesn’t have any “skin in the game” (or just passes off the “advice” of others as their own). 

So, knowing that Russia and Ukraine are separate countries that are both subjects of International Law, and thus their own domestic Constitution, Criminal Code, Criminal Procedural Code, etc, how can Russia “save Donbass” by recognising the DPR and LPR and then “remove the Nazis” without falling into America’s trap – Russia violating International Law? After all, if this “multi-polar” world is to take shape, then Russia must respect Ukraine’s laws in the same way that Moscow expects Kiev to respect its laws (regardless of whether Kiev actually does this or not).

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It is this question that Joe Bloggs can’t answer. Whilst he was posting “pro-Russia” content on social media and identifying himself as the modern-day Sun Tzu he forgot (or simply isn’t able) to take into account reality. He was trapped in Plato’s cyber cave, where topics like “WW3” provide good entertainment, but when a war actually starts he won’t actually fight in it. Or if he does, it will be a flash in the pan for quick fame, and then he will “retire” to the less-prestigious (but arguably safer) “information war”.

Pro-Russia westerners like Joe Bloggs claim they want to help Russia and that they support the DPR and LPR, but all their “solutions” to existential problems result in… the extermination of the Russian nation. It never occurred to Joe that the reason Russia doesn’t recognise the DPR/LPR is because it prefers to keep Ukraine intact, so that when the grenade cocked by America explodes the shrapnel travels West and not East. Let’s imagine for a moment that Russia today recognises the DPR and LPR. Then what? Russia cannot send the troops in Donbass because it would violate International Law and give America so much leverage that all the work done and sacrifices made in Syria would be for nothing. So why recognise the Republics in such a case? It is too painful for the “pro-Russia” westerner to learn that Ukraine (which Donbass is legally a part of) made its own choice (with some aggressive encouragement from the West) to go it alone and to seek “independence” from Russia, and thus it must live with this decision. If the government in Kiev changes in 2019 and another ass-on-two-chairs President arrives, then maybe Russia will listen to the naughty child that is Ukraine, but until then – Ukraine is on its own.

But where does this leave Donbass? People are dying nearly every day because of Ukrainian shelling, after all. Well of course, this fact is horrifying and inexcusable, but when emotions are put aside for a moment and the legal text that was presented above is fully understood, Russia’s actions vis-a-vis Donbass become clearer: Russia can’t legally enter Ukraine in order to repel America, which is the main source of the suffering in Donbass, so instead Russia entered Syria, where its presence is covered by International Law. From this theatre Russia can strike an even bigger blow on America at a safe distance from the Russian nation, without risking the wildfire of fourth-generational warfare spreading eastward. After all, without the option of pillaging the Middle East and Africa, how can the bankrupt EU and American economies survive? Hint: they can’t. In the meantime, Russia sends the residents of Donbass humanitarian aid, supports the republics in the information space, opens criminal cases via the Investigative Committee against Ukrainian commanders responsible for shelling residential areas, and works with more Russia-friendly Ukrainian officials like Viktor Medvedchuk to release prisoners of war. It should also be noted that since the civil war has now spread to all corners of the country (in the religion domain especially), Russia also has to look after its own citizens who work on the Ukrainian territory (this uses state resources). I.e., Russia has a lot on its plate already vis-a-vis Ukraine – not to mention vis-a-vis the other 194 countries in the world), and the Hague tribunal for “war crimes” that America so badly wants for Russia would certainly be the straw that breaks Moscow’s back. In summary: in the “great game” Donbass now acts as a buffer against Anglo-Saxon aggression, and it willingly (the vast majority of citizens of the LDPR support Putin and his Russia) carries out this task to protect the wider context – the Russian nation.

Joe Bloggs must learn to look further than the end of his nose (5 years on the scale of history is like a drop in the ocean) in order to see that Russians killing Russians (citizens of Russia killing citizens of Ukraine) 100% guarantees the liquidation of the Russian nation. And this fact doesn’t concern just Russia and Russians, but also Joe himself, because he most likely wants his children to grow up in a world where they can play in the streets without worrying about their own government one day bombing them.

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