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War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

Putin's grave, Dnipro, Ukraine

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength....George Orwell's Ministry of Truth, in his dystopian novel, 1984, evokes Putin's Russia in 2023. Yeltsin's attempt to introduce democracy to Russia failed with the aid of the oligarchs who controlled all three of the national television channels and contrived to win the 1996 election whilst Yeltsin was seriously ill. The Chechen war distracted voters. Oligarch Khodorkovsky predicted the Communist Party should have won the election by democratic means, instead, the Westernisers won the battle but lost the war. Democracy did not happen in Russia. Russians are used to being deceived, Communism with the worker's paradise imposed was a sham.

Following Yeltsin's re-election, General Lebed arranged a peace agreement with the Chechens. Lebed was then swiftly deleted. Berezovsky claimed seven oligarchs controlled 50% of the Russian economy. The financial crash, August 1998, revealed Russia as deeply in debt. The West stopped lending Russia money; bankers among the oligarchs were ruined; 30% of small businesses folded; living standards crashed by 40%. Spring 1999, Vladimir Putin became Prime Minister, and acting president when a seriously ill Yeltsin retired, end of 1999. This returned a security elite to power. Communism ending, confirmed the great geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. They strove to restore Russia's greatness.

Chechens invaded Dagestan, a series of explosions across Russia with the contrivance of the FSB, ensured a new Chechen war. Putin ensured pro-Kremlin Chechens brutally suppressed Chechnya. A series of terrorist attacks with FSB involvement including the Moscow Theatre, October 2002, ensured everyone was poisoned, no kidnappers survived. The 2004 capture of School Number 3, Beslan, North Ossetia, was poorly secured by Russian troops. The state's involvement was rife. No kidnappers survived. Putin imposed his hand picked regional governors on the state. The old hierarchical state structure was re-imposed. Putin targeted Berezovskys' and Gusinskys' media empires. Putin set up institutions imitating the functions of democracy. The price of oil allowed the economy to grow. Centralised power was doomed to inefficiency and corruption. Khodorkovsky, who supported democracy, was targeted by Putin. Anti-Western sentiment; the NATO bombing of Serbia; 3 Soviet Republics and 4 former Satellites joined the EU and NATO. When Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004 turned Westwards with colour revolutions fears of this happening in Russia became a governing political factor. Sovereign democracy was coined to describe the strong national identity of its governing elite.

January 2006, Russia was the focus of world attention when it cut off supplies of gas to Ukraine, this demonstrated the West's vulnerable dependence on Russian energy, Gazprom was supplying Europe with 66% of its gas imports, piped through Ukraine. The 2004 election and Orange Revolution changed Ukraine's orientation from East to West. Russia punished Georgia's and Moldova's western allegiance, with, Georgia's arrest of four Russians engaged in spying triggered the deportation from Russia of thousands of Georgians. Putin lorded over a thriving economy. In August Gazprom took over the last independent newspaper, Kommersant, followed the contract killing of Anna Politkovskaya, [Putin ordered Alexander Litvinenko to kill Politkovskaya, Litvinenko refused, Putin jailed him for a year, Politkovskaya was assassinated and Litvinenko left for London where he was poisoned with Polonium] an ardent critic of Putin and Russia's behaviour in Chechnya, Novaya Gazeta lost its star journalist. Corruptiin spiralled out of control.

Putin reigned supreme, the rise in energy prices ensured GDP increased sixfold, poverty had been halved. Tsar Putin had no intention of leaving office.

Putin's invasion of Ukraine was based on faulty intelligence. Putin advisers told him what he wanted to hear. Putin expected to occupy Hostamel airfield, north of Kyiv, with paratroopers, occupy Kyiv, capture, kill and replace Zelensky with the population welcoming Russian troops. Instead Hostamel was re-taken, the airfield was blocked with planes, the area nortb of Kyiv was flooded thereby restricting APCs and Russian tanks to narrow roads readily reduced to charred remains during their stalled advance for three weeks.

The genocidal famine of 1932-3 killed more Ukrainians than in any war in the country's history. The facts were so harshly suppressed that no one knew the toll 5 million or even as many as 8 million. Theses famines were not mentioned in soviet books, newspapers or speeches. This was a Soviet policy of breaking the spirit of Ukrainian independence, and the resistance of its farmers to forced collectivisation. Naturally, half of Ukraine's population is Russian because Stalin forced Russian settlers on Ukraine, the Baltic states and the former Czechoslavakia. The language, culture and history are shared. Russia does not need the West.

By 2008, Putin had amassed a $40 billion fortune ensuring he was the richest man in Europe. Medvedev took over from Putin as Prime Minister. Medvedev launched a campaign against corruption with one third of the country's budget eaten up by corrupt officials. This involved incriminating the very elite to which he belonged. Russia's economy was growing by 7% annually. Inflation informed the decline of the stock market which declined by 5%. In August President Saakashvili attempted to regain South Ossetia, Russian tanks invaded Georgia and destroyed its newly modernised armed forces.

The world shared the free market crash of 2008, the Cold War did not allow an ideological divide. The price of oil fell from $147 to below %50 a barrel. The poor suffered, The state had to uses its reserves, the rich were not immune as the Russian stock market 70% the steepest decline worldwide.

In 2023, Putin is trapped in a war he cannot win. Putin is in open conflict with Prigodin, the rabble-rouser in charge of Wagner mercenaries. There have been no battlefield successes. The heroic praise of Putin is hollow, with his demise/death openly discussed. Putin will not live to see the Ukraine/Russia war resolved. The dramatic overhaul of NATO which is expanding with Finland and Sweden seeking membership of NATO - the opposite of what Putin planned. The proliferation of NATO weapons supplied to Ukraine ensures Russia will be humiliated with catastrophic losses in men and material ensuring Russia will never invade another country. Russia's standing army has been annihilated. China supports Russia by buying large amounts of Russian oil at a discount. No none wins a war.

Source:- Sunday Times, Irish Times including recent books on Russia


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