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Ukraine War (Russian Special Military Operation) – Brief discussion on sources; An Annotated Bibliography

May 21, 2022

(This blog entry was slightly revised and updated several times, the most recent on March 5, 2023)

My position:

This is a war, the current conflict in Ukraine, planned for eight years by Washington and executed through proxies in Europe (the Zelensky government, NATO, etc).

  • The domestic agenda of the Zelensky government is nothing short of a full scale ethnic cleansing, expulsion of the Russian population of Ukraine that has been proceeding in full force since the 2014 Maidan coup, one orchestrated by the U.S. (Victoria Nuland) and the UK.
  • It is a part of an effort to pressure Russia, cause socio-economic conflict there to bring down the Puin government and replace it with “more pliable” “Yeltsin-like” leadership that then could be used to partition Russia into smaller units more easily accessible to Western corporate and financial penetration and then do likewise to its main geopolitical target: China.
  • The Ukrainian military buildup on the borders of Russia is a part of a more global effort to surround both Russia and China to weaken the challenge these two countries represent to U.S. global hegemony. Western pressure on Russia is because the current Biden Administration has decided that “breaking Russia” is easier at this point than breaking China and that to accomplish regime change in Russia would make isolating and pressuring China that much more possible.

Any serious analysis of the causes of this war – call it what you want – the Russian invasion, Russian special military operation… doesn’t matter. The crisis itself must be understood in its global, not local context: the emerging, very much obvious, struggle between dying U.S. unilateralism, global hegemony and the emergence of a multi-polar world in which no one country – especially Washington – calls the shots.

To only look at the Ukrainian crisis as beginning on February 24, 2022, when Russian troops entered Ukraine from six different points from the north, east and south results in a skewed understanding of a conflict that has been going on – in the military realm for at least eight years. The more limited approach confuses, as is often the case – “the forest from the trees.” It also results in confusing the perpetrator from the victims, the victims in this case being the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine; the perpetrator being the Kiev government, itself little more than a pawn, a proxy for U.S. dominated NATO. Such an approach avoids, no cancels what has been an eight year of what amounts to ethnic cleansing of Ukraine’s Russian speaking population, eight years of war against the separatist Donbass republics that resulted, according to OCDE sources of 16,000 deaths, overwhelmingly in Ukraine’s Russian speaking areas. It also denies the very real and extensive Nazification of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainians society in general that celebrates and lionizes the life of Stefan Bandera – Ukrainian Nazi collaborator responsible for the murder of Ukrainian Poles and Jews during World War II. The United States has been planning, preparing for a military confrontation with Russia in the Ukraine for at least eight years goin back to the 2014 Maidan coup which brought to the scene a U.S. proxy government in Kiev which remains in power today. 

At the start of the military confrontation the Russian demands in this war, which from what I can tell, they are pursuing are the following:

  1. To neutralize a Ukrainian military build up – some 60,000 troops and the construction of major military installations most bought and paid for by Washington and other NATO countries with the goal of engaging in an ethnic cleansing operation of the Russian population of Eastern Ukraine (the Donbass) that was scheduled for March or April, 2022. The Russian special military operation put an end to that operation, poorly – if at all – reported in the Western media.
  2. demilitarization of the Ukrainian military, that includes the end of foreign military trainers, weapons on Ukrainian soil
  3. the denazification of Ukrainian society with its anti-Russian (racist) focus. To deny the pervasiveness of pro-Nazi, ultra-right nationalism is to be in la-la land.
  4. Protection of the Russian speaking element in Ukrainian society – which has been severely repressed over the past eight years (and longer). It is quite clear – or seems so at present, that those Russian speaking regions of Ukraine that have been liberated – and LIBERATED is the proper word – from Ukrainian control will not return to the Ukrainian national fold although whether they remain independent entities or be absorbed into the Russian Federation remains to be seen.

The broader goal of Russian policy: to seek a new security architecture (as they call it) in Europe that would lead to a de-militarization of the continent, the dissolution of NATO – essentially an offensive, aggressive, outdated alliance, an arrangement that would insure the security and integrity of all European nations. Thirty-one years after the collapse of the USSR and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, I fail to see how such a goal is anything other than rational and in the interest of all concerned., even if, at present it appears as currently unattainable.

It is important to note from the outset that those who follow the mainstream media – even, or should I say especially – what are considered its most respectable sources – the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc. – cannot understand the Ukrainian situation (or frankly most) of U.S. foreign policy as “news” has become so politicized that it ceases to provide objectivity. One has to learn how to read between the lines. to see how the mainstream media shapes, manipulates public opinion, what it exaggerates and how, what it outright lies about (in the case of Ukraine conflict the Bucha (non) incident, the Ukrainian “offensive” on Snake Island, its offensive to defeat Russian forces north of Kharkov, the portrayal of the neo-Nazis in the Azovstal Steel Complex in Mariupol to cite the more obvious examples.)

Getting to the bottom of a foreign policy conflict is not easy, or as it is sometimes said, “not for sissies”…

Most of these sources suggested below, are, for Western folk, obscure, questionable and I would guess, not known. Took me a while to put them together. There are others. My starting point – on the Ukraine as well as other foreign policy issues – is pretty much always… hmm, are “they” (the State Department, media) exaggerating or outright lying… and if so how? It takes a while to deconstruct the mainstream narrative and then to determine, if that “narrative” is off base what is actually happening? Why the skepticism about Ukraine war? Because it is accompanied by nothing short of a media blitzkrieg, not unsimilar to what happened prior to the 2003 US led invasion of Iraq, the 2012 Washington planned – NATO executed invasion of Libya, the 20 year war in Afghanistan. In all these cases “we” (the American people) were lied to, false pretexts were presented for military intervention. By the time the public could discern the reality of these situations, the wars were over.

The sources below are ones that I have come to trust – trust in the sense that I learn more from them about what is, in fact, going on in Ukraine, both in its local and more global context, than I have from the mainstream media. Some of them are quite conservative sources (the Duran for example) but I have come to respect the seriousness, care and analytical acumen of their presentations. A couple of these sources have been bad mouthed as “Russian propaganda,” “pro-Russian” – as if a “pro-Russian” source cannot be objective and one has to be reading the “pro-US” NY Times or the British Guardian to “really” get “the truth”. After a while, you’ll get it, be able to separate fact from fiction. None of them are “infallible” but they are more objective than what many are reading.

Of course in the case of Ukraine, I sympathize with the Ukrainian people who are little more than cannon fodder in a US/NATO war to weaken Russia and on another level, to undermine the growing Russian-Chinese alliance. One has to wonder that after squeezing Ukraine dry of its potential that NATO might next set Poland lose, with the enthusiastic support of the Polish government. We’ll see.

How to follow the war in Ukraine and be more objectively updated? Keep in mind the degree to which the war has been politicized in the media… Objective sources, or perhaps, more objective sources, alternative sources are hard to come by. One needs to both deconstruct the mainstream narratives that bombard us with unparalleled intensity every day, to determine the  degree does it either exaggerate (gray propaganda)  or lie (black propaganda)? At the same time, one has to try to reconstruct a more honest understanding of events – a more objective narrative. This is no easy task and requires both alternative sources AND, as important, dialogue and discussion.

The sources below are ones that I have come to trust – trust in the sense that I learn more from them about what is, in fact, going on in Ukraine, both in its local and more global context, than I have from the mainstream media. Some of them are quite conservative sources (the Duran for example) but I have come to respect the seriousness, care and analytical acumen of their presentations. A couple of these sources have been bad mouthed as “Russian propaganda,” “pro-Russian” – as if a “pro-Russian” source cannot be objective and one has to be reading the “pro-US” NY Times or the British Guardian to “really” get “the truth”. After a while, you’ll get it, be able to separate fact from fiction. None of them are “infallible” but they are more objective than what many are reading.

How to follow the war in Ukraine and be more objectively updated? These are some of the sources that I have found helpful.

An annotated short list of sources:

Bhadrakumar Melkunlangara – A retired Indian diplomat who assignments included the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Turkey. Melkulangara writes mainly on Indian foreign policy and the affairs of the Middle East, Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific. He writes a blog called “Indian Punchline” which I find myself increasingly relying on not just for information/insights on the war in Ukraine. His scope of expertise is vastly more extensive and his reporting on the Ukraine War is so different from what one reads in the New York Times or one sees on CNN. Virtually all his information/insights have proven accurate. A voice from India – keep in mind that India is trying to have good relations with China, Russia AND the USA, even the current neo-liberal, Hindu nationalist government of Modi.

In any case if Bhadrakumar Melkulangara writes it, I want to read it. Below parts of his bio on Indian Punch

“I was a career diplomat by profession. For someone growing up in the 1960s in a remote town at the southern tip of India, diplomacy was an improbable profession. My passion was for the world of literature, writing and politics – roughly in that order. While doing doctoral research on the works of Tennessee Williams, however, friends encouraged me to have a fling at the Civil Services Examination. As it turned out, before I could figure out the momentous import of what was unfolding, fate had pitchforked me into the top ranks of the merit list and ushered me into the Indian Foreign Service.

Writing must come in a spontaneous rush of thoughts. The exhilarating sense of freedom of an eclectic mind makes all the difference. None of the Indian Punchline blogs has been a premeditated act of writing. But then, I will be gravely remiss if I do not acknowledge the two profound influences on my formative years – my late mother who was a deeply religious person of extraordinary spirituality who moulded my inner world and my late father who was a prolific writer, author, and Marxist intellectual and thinker who introduced me at a young age to dialectics as a matchless intellectual tool to analyse the material world and decode politics.

The Indian Punchline may intentionally provoke at times, but there are no darker intentions here, no hidden agenda and no attempt to preach. Simply put, the Indian Punchline reflects a humanist’s markings against the backdrop of the ‘Asian Century’. I am underscoring this because we live in difficult times, especially in India, with such acute polarization in discourses – ‘You are either with us or against us’.

Black Alliance for Peace – The Black Alliance for Peace has published its own “A Brief Guide on the Situation in the Ukraine.” It includes the organization’s position on the Ukraine crisis, their program for ending the war in Ukraine and an excellent bibliography of statements made by its members. The analysis and the articles are among the best stuff out there. Worthy of your attention.

BreakThrough News – An unabashedly left Marxist website in some way associated with the Party of Socialism and Liberation. Like South Front (below) it covers a variety of topics of which the war in Ukraine is just one. Still, the programs that it has done on the Ukraine war are excellent. Have watched the hosts and co-producers, Rania Khalek and Eugene Puryear, an Arab American and Afro American, for about a year now? Wikipedia describes Khalek as “far left, pro-Assadist and pro-Putin”, typical more of Wikipedia’s political bigotry than of Khalek’s views. She is an excellent interviewer, one of the better ones out there from a left perspective. Khalek often teams up with Puryear, who I consider one of the best analytical voices on the re-emerging Marxist left in the United States. His reporting, analysis on the crisis in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia) is as good as it gets and rare, including in left circles. Had a chance to meet him very briefly in Denver where he spoke at an event on Ethiopia at which local Ethiopians and Eritreans made up a large element of the audience.

When they do programs on Ukraine they are of high quality.

Jean Bricmont – is a Belgian born theoretical and philosopher of science. I first came across him as the author of a fine little volume Humanitarian Imperialism (2006), one of the earlier critiques of Samantha Powers’ thinking on “humanitarian interventionalism” – that pretext for U.S.-NATO military intervention in the name of humanitarian motivations, rather than what it is – naked imperialist war-making. In any case, I don’t know if Bricmont has a blog, if so, I haven’t found it. Nor is he one of those who has rushed to dominate social media space as so many well-oiled operatives have. But he does post on Facebook and regularly at that, usually pithy, short commentaries that include articles of relevance, some in French, some in English. If you use Facebook – I have a good friend who literally can’t live with out it – suggest that you friend him and follow his posts. For those who don’t understand French (or other languages) I have found that “Google Translate” works well enough to provide the main ideas.

The Duran  – a website that has pretty much daily updates on the situation on the military front in Ukraine plus good discussions of the economic warfare being conducted by the US/NATO against Russia and how sanctions are backfiring. They are a Greek living in London, Alexander Mercouris, and (if I remember correctly) a Cypriot, Alex Christoforou. Besides the program they do together, they also each have their own web programs (Alex Christoforou , Alexander Mercouris )are also very good on exposing the machinations of the neo-Cons in the State Department (Blinken, Sullivan, Nuland), on whose shoulders they place most of the responsibility for the mess in Ukraine. I’m with them on that.

The analysis of both is serious – they know their stuff and even if one disagrees with their right-wing slant (they seem to have a special affection for Donald Trump) – they are very much worth listening to, worth considering their ideas.  I try to catch their programs every morning. They know European politics much better than most American commentators I am familiar with and also have a much clearer – and more accurate – picture of the more global framework (US/NATO vs the growing China-Russia- Iran connection) than most.

They also have interesting guests on their program – Scott Ritter, The Dreizen Report, Gonzalo Lira The back issues of all of these are worth watching. Unfortunately, while Dreizen and Lira are no lightweights when it comes to Ukraine – Dreizen’s analysis on the rise of the Azov Brigade (Ukrainian fascist military elements) was insightful and Lira mixes genuine pearls of insight with sometimes unsubstantiated predictions, their right wing – nay, reactionary political stances – pollute and weaken their take of the situation. (Additional note on the Dreizen Report: Although “way out there” on the right politically – he’s to the right of Trump from what I can tell –  I cannot discount Jacob Dreizen’s reporting on Ukraine. Irreverent, writing with a “gonzo” style,  a bit too commercial for my tastes, he seems to know more about what is going on on the ground in Ukraine that pretty much anyone I read. He’s got the Zelensky government down pat, whatever. I’ve never read anything he’s written about Ukraine that wasn’t accurate, spot on … even if he takes cheap shots at Alexander Mercouris and the “Duran”. Give it a try. Same goes – well not quite the same, but good enough – for Gonzalo Lira who has taken a number of cheap shots at Scott Ritter. An openly right-wing ideologue who in one video months ago claimed to be on the international steering committee of “Alt-Right” – whatever the heck that is – stil, not a fool and again, most of what he says is easily verified. It’s a mistake not to at least check in on Dreizen and Lira. Put bluntly, the beat the heck out of Amy Goodman and “Democracy Now!” and what folks like Bernie Sanders and AOC are saying (if they say anything) about Ukraine.

Seven months into this war, this Special Military Operation, the Duran stands out for its calm, insightful reporting and analysis; one friend prefers Christoforou’s reporting, while I respect Christoforou, Mercouris’ analysis is a bit more sharply focused, with a better sense of the global dimensions of the Ukraine conflict.

Bruce Gagnonformerly a Young Republican turned peace activist, is currently the coordinator of Global Alliance Against Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power. He has a rich history of anti-nuclear/peace organizing of which here is a small sample:

“Between 1983–1998 Bruce was the State Coordinator of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and has worked on space issues for over 35 years.  In 1987 he organized the largest peace protest in Florida history when over 5,000 people marched on Cape Canaveral in opposition to the first flight test of the Trident II nuclear missile.” There is much more.

His knowledge of the militarization of space (Star Wars) is profound;

His writings on the Ukraine crisis are found in many places, among them: Americans Who Tell TheTruth , People’s World, Alternative Radio just to mention a few that appeared in a Google Search. I read his stuff on Ukraine (and other subjects) on Facebook. His posting there both from a factual (ie, what is going on) and an analytical view point are excellent. If you are on Facebook and interested in the Ukraine war – as you should be – you could do a lot worse than friending him and following his posts on the Ukraine. His writings on Ukraine appear on the blog Organizing Notes.

iEarlGrey – In this particular link EarlGray and his wife (I assume), walking through a park in St. Petersburg, discuss the effect, or lack thereof, of Western sanctions that have been imposed on Russia since 2014, most recently in their sixth round. Doesn’t seem to have hurt Russia much. There is no mass uprising of any Russians against the government (as the war now enters its fourth month Putin’s support in the polls continues to rise to near 90% levels – while Biden’s plummets).

“Earl Grey” pen name for a Brit living in St. Petersburg, his work is continually attacked as little more than Russian propaganda and he is written off by many mainstream elements in the West. I disagree. I find his programs informative, his tone controlled. He almost always provides documentation for  the points made on his programs. Virtually all his ideas have been verified on some of the other sources mentioned here. To write him off as simply “Russian propaganda” is the listener’s loss.

Gray Zone:The link here is to a recent program, an interview with two radical Americans – Texas Bentley and Fergie Chambers – both of whom are in the Donbas (the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics). These are the Russian speaking break-away (from Ukraine) republics in Ukraine’s eastern regions. It is this side of the Ukraine story that is simple blacked-out in the U.S. media. There is virtually no coverage of what has happened in this region, more generally referred to as the Donbas, for the past eight years, what they have suffered during this period, And in fact the media has blacked out almost entirely that in the Donbas anyhow, it is the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics militias that have done much of the fighting against the Ukrainian government forces (including the neo-Nazi elements therein) with Russian military often playing a backup role (air power, artillery).

The Gray Zone is a left, clearly anti-imperialist source of information. Their reporters are thorough, careful researchers, their programs are – one after another – deconstructions of government, corporate and mainstream media lies and distortions. the team of Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, Aaron Mate, Anya Parampil and occasionally Danny Haiphong beats pretty much anything out there in terms of international news when it comes to the machinations of U.S. Imperialism. From my (admittedly not so) modest perspective, in terms of U.S. reporting, analysis on the Ukraine war (and prior to that the wars in Syria, Kazakhstan, the JCPOA, … these guys (and one girl) are really pros.

I would also add this particular video How Ukraine’s President Zelensky Made Peace With Neo-Nazis which gives some good history of the rise of Ukrainian neo-Nazis. That said, all their pieces on the Ukraine – either by Max Blumenthal or Aaron Mate are excellent, well researched, serious pieces.

Diana Johnstone: – American author living in Europe (Paris, I believe), author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions on NATO’s war and successful experiment to partition Yugoslavia – essentially the same plan meant for Russia, she has developed a kind of expertise on European modern political history rare. Incisive, careful research and observer of the machinations of Washington in Europe. Anything she writes is worth reading, considering.

New Atlas: I have found this website, available, at least for the moment, on YouTube one of the best around.  It entails interviews, commentary, videos by one Brian Berletic, a former U.S. Marine, who while stationed on Okinawa, who was somehow able to see through his personal situation to an understanding that the United States is little more than an empire. He formerly wrote under a pen name, Tony Cartalucci, but no longer. Much of his focus has been on geo-political developments in Asia, U.S. machinations in that part of the world, Washington’s growing tensions with China and how American foreign policy plays out. A strategic thinker with considerable knowledge of military hardware, strategy and tactics, his reporting on the evolution of war in Ukraine is sober, thoughtful and having followed him for several months, I can say, dead accurate. The link posted above is an eight-minute video on the hybrid warfare Washington engages in worldwide. Most of the time recently he’s commenting on the state of the battlefront in Ukraine… his analyses countering PR fantasies that Ukraine is striking devastating blows to the Russian (and Donbas) militaries in eastern Ukraine.

New Eastern Outlook: A Moscow-based political journal. According to Brian Berletic, publisher of “the New Atlas” , Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have permanently suspended them; People can even share links from NEO on Facebook and probably Twitter. Attempts to even share links from NEO will be blocked. On occasion I have come across links to NEO. Sober analysis from where I’m sitting including in-depth coverage of Ukraine crisis. from Western as well as Russian writers. Many radical (to the left) types first kicked off mainstream media, and then major social medial platforms in the West as a result of censorship find their way to NEO (and news sources like “RT”) because they have no other outlets for their voices. Here is one example of the quality/nature of their reporting: “Poland’s Position as the Next Ukraine“. Just at a time when using Russian sources has become taboo, it becomes that much more important to at least consider them in order to understand and break through mainstream narratives.

Richard Wolff – Democracy At Work – Richard Wolff does not write primarily about Ukraine, but when he does, he is very much worth following. A prof “emeritus” at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst’s Department of Economics, to my knowledge the only openly Marxist economic department in U.S. universities today. Wolff’s on-line video program “Democracy At Work” is worth watching – and if  you do as I do – also contributing to. He covers pretty much everything you would expect an economist to cover – national, international economic developments. He has done a number of pieces on the Ukraine war. They are insightful,the economics of the war as thoughtful and accurate as I have been able to find anywhere. He is NOT a supporter of the Russian military intervention but he does not buy in to mainstream narratives of the war and insists on a negotiated settlement that would end the conflict.  Here are four links to his discussions on Ukraine: Using Marxism To Understand the Ukraine War; Global Capitalism: The Second Ukraine War; Richard Wolff on the Russia/Ukraine Conflict and Biden’s Deindustrialization of Europe;

South Front: A generically left website that deals broadly speaking with events, conflicts in the Global South. A lot of good stuff on Ukraine, the forgotten war in Syria (where U.S. troops are stationed in the east of the country). There is news and analysis you won’t find many other places. I have found the analysis presented here – both the facts and the interpretation to be well done.

Scott Ritter – Scott Ritter will be known to many of you. He was the former US Marine, UN Inspector who denied that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Now he is literally all over the internet giving his ideas, insights on the war in the Ukraine, all of which goes against the mainstream narrative. He doesn’t get into who is “right”, who is “wrong” so much as he explains what is happening on the battlefield, almost always stating facts and opinions diametrically opposed to the mainstream narrative. He is a “strategic thinker” who applies Clausewitzian approach (war is diplomacy by other means) to the situation at hand. He also now has his own YouTube site (link above) although he has frequently been kicked off YouTube (and other platforms). He is interviewed by many of the other websites cited here and his work is easy to find.

An important source.

Ritter has been the focus of attack from right wing social media elements – Dreizen Report, Gonzalo Lira -, specifically for his suggestion several months back that the nearly $60 billion in military aid from the U.S. and E.U. has been “a game changer’, and will extend the timeline of the conflict considerably, that there will be no easy military victory for Russia in Ukraine. These attacks are classically polarizing political shit of no substance, right-wing, reactionary garbage, more an attempt to discredit what is essentially a left, anti-imperialist source in order that right-wing commentators control the social media narrative on the Ukraine. Ritter continues to be, perhaps the most knowledgeable and politically far-sighted commentators of them all. My respect for him only grows with each broadcast. He knows his stuff.

Fred Weir – Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor claims to present “unbiased and non-partisan news.” A stretch somewhat BUT… among the mainstream media sources, easily, the most sober and more carefully analytical to my tastes, having read it now for the better part of half a century. Fred Weir is the Monitor’s Moscow correspondent. I do not subscribe to the CSM but do get to read it on-line through libraries. Most of the stuff I see from Weir is posted on Facebook; those of you who are on this “social media platform” can follow his stuff there.

The link above is a “Facebook” link. Typical Weir. It shows how the idea that Russian grocery shelves are bare because of sanctions (not mentioned) is more propaganda than real. In his work, Weir travels all over Russia (and beyond). He is generous enough to post photos, short stories, articles in the CSM of goings-on in Russia that give quite a different view of the country suggesting that it is a lot more than John McCann’s label of Russia  “a gas station masquerading as a country.” Along with David Kotz, Weir wrote “Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System.” It’s pricey today but perhaps you can find it in a library. Have read a number of books trying to explain why the USSR collapsed. Weir’s analysis is head and shoulders above the rest.

I would add that Weir is, from what I can tell of what he has posted on Facebook anyway, a strong critic of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Again, his more geo-political articles on the subject have been printed at the CSM, some of which can be found on his Facebook page.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. margy stewart permalink
    May 22, 2022 12:58 am

    Thank you for taking the time to share this list of sources with us! It would take me a long time to track down these sources on my own, and even longer to vet them. Your list is helpful.

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