Copy/paste from this post on WOTB's Reddit site by u/penelopepnortney.
h/t to u/IcedAndCorrected for pointing me to this excellent video Q & A between Jacob Dreizin (JD), Robert Barnes (RB) and VivaFrei. Some highlights:
About Jacob Dreizin
Jacob has a blog that has become a go-to source for many people wanting to understand what's happening in the Ukraine war.
He was born in Israel to Soviet expat parents and his family immigrated to the US when he was about 9. He speaks Russian and understands Ukrainian and says the two are mutually intelligible. He was in the US Army for 5 years; has a Master's degree in International Relations that he considers useless (all theory, no real world) and got an MBA from the university in Singapore in the 2010s - commuting there daily from Malaysia.
After that he returned to the US and took a job in DC working on the Obamacare rollout, which he calls a total clusterfck because CMS hired a team of college grads to run it. He now works as a low-level bureaucrat in D.C. where he does his job 9-5 and works on his blog and other interests on his own time. When asked he said his co-workers probably know about his blog but he never discusses it at work and as a federal employee he has 1st amendment protections written into the union contract. He considers himself a self-made "expert" on Ukraine, which he's been following closely since the 2014 Maidan coup.
Ukraine war, some historical background
The 1991 collapse of the USSR left a lot of "unclaimed" countries around Russia and the West slowly moved in. They first focused on East Europe as these countries were in dire economic straits and needed to be brought into EU/NATO neoliberal structures. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the focus shifted to the 14 non-European former SSRs.
Before the 2008 war with Russia the US was paying a huge part of Georgian state budget (like we did with Korea and S. Vietnam) and providing military assistance. Georgia jumped the gun, attacked the Russian enclave of South Ossetia and they lost; Russia dismantled their military and Georgia has been sort of a neutral state since then.
There are pro-Russian and pro-Western camps in Georgia. The leader of the latter was Mikheil Saakashvili [Wikipedia: "On 1 October 2021, Saakashvili returned to Georgia after an eight-year absence, and called on his followers to march on the capital, Tbilisi. He was arrested later on the same day in Tbilisi."]. His followers were among the Georgian volunteer mercs in Ukraine who participated in the throat-cutting videos of Russian POWs.
The current government is working hard to maintain neutrality despite pressure from the West to get on board with the Russian sanctions. They learned a hard lesson from 2008 - they're a fairly poor country with no natural resources, and there's a large
Georgian business community living in Russia that sends money back to Georgia as well as handling the trading of goods. There is a large US-funded biolab in Georgia near Tbilisi so there's still involvement with US but not as much as before.
RB: Great parallel between Georgia and Ukraine, what I call "sociopaths looking for a permission slip", political permission to act on their sociopathology, what we see in a lot of so-called "democratic movements." The other aspect is grifting politicians - Saakashvili trying to govern part of Ukraine [Odessa] after the 2014 Maidan coup. He's back in jail in Georgia because of all the crimes he committed.
Ukraine in the lead-up to the 2014 coup
JD: just as the US and UK supported the Banderist rebels after WW2, they again banked on the Galician nationalists/fascists, a relatively small proportion of the Ukrainian political scene. 2014
wasn't first attempt to bring Ukraine into the US fold, they succeeded briefly in 2004 w/pro-Western president Victor Yuschchenko but it was a disaster; there was a major
economic crisis in 2008-2009 and he lost election in 2010 to Yanukovich, a thug and a crook from Donetsk. Then the 2014 coup - it was an interesting mix. Hardcore Galician nationalists and fascist movements allied with some of the oligarchs; Poroschenko let the TV station he owned become a platform for the revolution.
Yanukovich got a tap on the shoulder from the US, was told "we know where your assests and foreign bank accounts are." His security forces stood down for the same reason so Yanukovich had to flee to Russia.
The new government
When the revolutionaries took power, they didn't represent a majority of the population, most of whom were apolitical and politically inert. Yanukovich never had more than 40% support in his home town of Donetsk. And then the new regime began renaming streets and putting up statues of Bandera, changing the education system to eradicate their Russian history and establish a new Ukrainian identity.
The prohibitions against teaching Russian in the schools were in primarily Russian-speaking regions. The new regime was basically a military occupation because 1/2 the country didn't want them. The new regime set up governors and mayors that were not locally elected. Many of those implementing the "no Russian" policies were ancestrally Russian themselves but as with the mayors and governors, they were totally dependent for their pay and their positions on the new government in Kiev. And the government in Kiev was totally dependent on money from the US and the IMF (controlled by the US).
After the coup, the EU mostly lost interest in Ukraine until the war, it's mostly been the US propping up the government and the US exerts extensive control, even over Ukraine's domestic policy - "do land reforms, cut social spending", etc. Normally, as happened in Thailand and Korea in 1997/8, in Turkey and Argentina in 2001, the IMF comes in and restructures the economy then leaves after a year or so and the country is sovereign again.
This isn't the case with Ukraine, which is under permanent foreign control. The US Embassy in Kiev has for years been determining Ukrainian HR policy, telling them who can be the finance minister or the anti-corruption minister, director of intelligence, etc.
Under Poroschenko, [Arsen] Avakov was appointed to run Interior Ministry [Internal Affairs of Ukraine] and turned it into his private army. When Zelensky won in 2019, they clashed and the US called Avakov in for a chat - 3 days later he resigned, saying he
needed to spend more time with his family and he left Ukraine. Natalie Jaresko, an American, was appointed finance minister. Then you have Biden's threats to Ukraine over the prosecutor investigating corruption that implicated his son.
JD said he knows no more than they do; does know that Zelensky had financial support from Kolomoyskyi. Interestingly, tweets from
the US Embassy in lead-up to 2019 election said "don't vote for Zelensky" because they wanted Poroschenko. Zelensky won 72% of the vote, which is an insane result; he promised change and to end the war. Zelensky got rolled; he ended up having to do whatever his paymaster (the US) told him to do and there will be no change as long as Ukraine is a "special project" of the Empire. It doesn't matter who the president of the country is, Ukraine has no sovereignty.
Up until 2015, Ukraine continued to do business with Russia's MIC - they provided engines for Russian helicopters and most of the engines for the Russian naval ships, but they cut off all of
this. They killed themselves economically, decimated entire industrial regions like Dnipro and Nikolayev - in Dnipro the factories making booster rockets for Russia employed 40-45k
people; now it employs about 5k and most are sweeping the floors.
Millions of young, economically productive Ukrainians left in the 7 years before the war, about 4 million total - about 1 million went to Russia, 2-3 million to Poland, 700k to Italy. Now most of the heavy industry is gone and their economy depends on funds from the US, EU and IMF along with remittance payments sent back to Ukraine from workers who moved away. Ukraine's GDP is now 1/2 of what it was before the 2014 coup.
Why is the US interested in Ukraine?
JD: right now it's the cornerstone of US political and military hegemony over Europe, which explains the reaction when Trump
was threatening to pull the US out of NATO. With the Russian invasion, France and Germany got suckered into supporting the US agenda and will be the first to pay.
This could lead eventually to a neutered EU or its dissolution. What holds the EU together is the money flows. The former SSRs had collapsed economies and joining the EU gave them a new sugar daddy - they don't give a rip about the EU's purported "liberal values", they care about the foreign aid they're getting. As hyperinflation occurs because of a totally manufactured energy crisis and that money loses its value, it will weaken the glue holding the EU together. Even if the EU doesn't break up, it may become like the Holy Roman Empire, form but no function.
The Empire - which JD defines as the MIC and the foreign policy establishment - can't afford to lose Ukraine after the way Afghanistan crashed and burned, it could bring the Empire down. This is their last big project because they're not yet ready to pivot to Taiwan. It's a gravy train for all these players; for reasons of ego plus turf plus financial gains they would rather see it destroyed if their project doesn't succeed.
Ukraine's complex history
RB: Ukraine is a cultural experiment, there's been a raft of scholarly articles, etc. about Ukraine, but the word itself means "borderland" (which is why JD calls it "THE Ukraine"). The mythology being built about Ukraine is for Ukrainians, most of them knew nothing about Bandera during his lifetime, and it represents the Galician side with history as part of Polish-Lithuania or Ruthenian - the Ukrainian nationalists who came to the US early on called themselves Ruthenians, not Ukrainians.
JD: Because it was a borderland between the Russian, Turkish and Polish civilizations, it was a mismatch of ethnic groups. It was never it's own entity, all the cities in E. and S. Ukraine were either founded by Zaporozhian Cossacks or the Russian Crown. It was so denuded of population that it was known as "the clean field." The lack of population was due to centuries of raids by Crimean Tatars, who gathered up whatever peoples had crept back into the area for its slave trade.
Odessa was founded by Turkey but it was develooped under Catherine the Great. The cities in Ukraine were cosmopolitan, multiple ethic groups like Jews who spoke Yiddish and Greeks and
Bulgarians, but the lingua franca of business and urban educated elites was Russian. Ukrainian was spoken more in the countryside. This was basically true through the collapse of the USSR; the last Soviet census in 1989 showed as many ethnic Russians (based on internal passports) as Ukrainians; now, using that same record, ethnic Russians has fallen to about 3-4 million, 1/5 of what it was. You can't go by last name, many Ukrainians have Russian last names and vice versa; seems to depend on when someone was born and whether it was "better" at the time to be Russian or Ukrainian.
What led Putin to invade Ukraine in 2022 vs. 2014
RB: Question about the political rebellion that was viciously repressed by the paramilitaries, ultra-nationalists and hooligans they put into the Ukrainian army post-2014 that led to the civil war in E. Ukraine over the past 8 years. Crimea was never a
part of Ukraine till 1954 when Ukraine was part of the USSR, and since the USSR's dissolution Crimea had been wanting to do a referendum to separate from Ukraine but were ignored. The referendum in 2014/5 is called the "Russian annexation" which is
interesting [hypocritical] considering our policy in the Balkans. But Putin didn't go into Ukraine in 2014, and you were able to predict when it was about to happen - what do you think led to it?
JD: It's well-known in Russia that Putin wants to retire, he's been looking for a successor for years - it looks like now it will be Sergei Shoigu, Defense Minister, who unfortunately isn't the leader that Putin is. He really didn't want to run again in the most recent (2020?) election but he did because of concerns over the succession, that Russia wasn't ready; he wants total stabilization in Russia and around its periphery, its near abroad and he hopes to achieve this by the time his term ends (2026?) if not before.
These kind of successions are dangerous, all the hidden knives may suddenly come out and the fear in 2020 was that a new leader would be weaker or would be SEEN as weaker; that Ukraine would see it as an opportunity to retake the LPR and DPR and Crimea; and that Russia's political system would be co-opted the way other governments have been, through threats against foreign financial assets, etc.
What to expect moving forward?
JD: This is a battle to the death for the Empire. In early Feb 2022, the Dept. of Commerce sent a letter to American electronics manufacturers (they actually manufacture in China, but they're based in the US), saying "if Russia goes into Ukraine prepare for shortages of neon and other critical materials."
So they already knew what was coming. At the same time they were busily destroying the fertilizer market by putting sanctions on Belarus that removed 20% of the supply of potash products from the world market. When Empire has to choose between furthering it's own idealogy (and the careers and cash flow that go with it) and helping you out, there's no contest. The Empire doesn't care about shortages or inflation; it exists independent of whomever is occupying the White House.
If Ukraine fails, they're done, so they'll push it as far as it will go. I've said we sent $40 bn to Ukraine so far and predict it will be $70-80 bn by the end of the year and even more next year. So losing isn't an option either for the Empire or for RU.
Question about the possibility of false flags like a bioweapon release?
JD: why do you need a false flag if you have fake news? False flags take a lot of work and coordination, it's much easier to just make up the story you want to tell.
Question about what's happening in US military heirarchy.
JD: i don't know about the top of the heirachy, do know about the bottom. Since dawn of volunteer force, in the late 1990s, getting people with 2-year degrees enlisting; and lots of "patriotism" enlistments after 9/11.
Then they destroyed it with the Iraq war, had to radically lower enlistment standards because people didn't want to get their asses blown up in Iraq. They raised the max. enlistment age to 42, started taking people with drug and criminal records,
lowered the ASFAB requirements (standardized test, the military equivalent of the SAT) . From 2005-2010 was basically recruiting from the gutter - this is generalizing but the proportion of desperadoes and deadenders was many times higher.
Started seeing some repair beginning in about 2011, a better cross-section of American society. Now it's clearly getting worse again because of the forced vaccination policies and political
incoherence of our leadership - they hate you if you were a Trump voter, hate you if you're white and/or male, etc. So some people are thinking they'll wait for next administration and see if it's
So with recruitment #s down, they've increased enlistment bonuses to $50-60k in specialty fields but this alone won't plug the gap. Another reason besides Iraq that people don't want to join is the Afghanistan withdrawal clusterfuck. The public can't
stomach another ground war so we have an army and reserves doing some joint training, e.g., with Lithuania, but because of public sentiment they can't be sent to a new war zone. This has been hugely damaging to the Empire's goals but it's a bit of karma for the warhawks who really wanted the war in Iraq and now really want a war in Ukraine - if Iraq hadn't happened, we'd probably have troops on the ground in Ukraine by now.