Putin is the one escalating the war in Ukraine

Putin is the one escalating the war in Ukraine. By Tim Black.

So we have arrived at a hugely significant moment in the war. In the space of 24 hours, Moscow has decided to unilaterally annex the Donbas region via pseudo referenda; threatened to attack those repelling an invading force with nuclear weapons; and promised to mobilise vast swathes of the Russian populace in an effort to conquer a sovereign nation. In a war that was already near enough existential for both Ukraine and the Kremlin, Putin has raised the stakes even higher.

Not that Putin and his allies are willing to take responsibility for escalating a bloody, devastating war that they themselves launched. Instead, they continue to blame the West. They continue to frame their own act of aggression as a mere defensive response to Western provocation. …

There’s no escaping one simple, indisputable fact: on 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Not NATO. Not the US. Not the UK. Russia. It started this war and now it is escalating it. …

One can understand why Putin is keen to paint the war in Ukraine as a war against NATO. Claiming that Russian forces are fighting ‘the entire military machine of the collective West’, as he did today, excuses the Russian army’s all-too-obvious failings. It also provides an increasingly pointless war with something of an anti-Western purpose, no matter how specious.

He may be culturally conservative, but…

But what is less understandable is why so many ‘anti-war’ pundits and politicos in the West are willing to go along with this fiction. That this is the West’s fault. That the West is escalating the conflict by giving Ukrainians the means to fight back. Is their anti-Westernism really that kneejerk? Their anti-imperialism really so shallow?

It may have been possible to argue that the West bore a large amount of responsibility for the simmering conflict over and in Ukraine before the invasion. But to continue blaming the West for the war and its escalation, after Russia’s entirely voluntary act of military aggression, is absurd. …

This simple-minded worldview leads to truly wretched conclusions — chief among them being the idea that Ukraine’s resistance is itself escalationary, a product of the West’s desire to prolong the conflict, to fight to the very last Ukrainian. According to this logic, the best solution is for Ukraine to give in, to acquiesce to Russia’s will.

This is upside down. Yes, the Ukrainian military is using NATO-supplied weapons, but those HIMARS aren’t driving Ukraine’s war effort. No, it is being driven by the Ukrainian people themselves. …

If this war is ever to come to an end, it is important to recognise the forces at play, rather than just blaming everything on the West.

Above all, it is vital to recognise that Russia started this war, and that Russia is now escalating it. Because that also means that Russia can de-escalate this war, too — by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine. As it should.

Putin made a bad mistake, in part because he was misinformed:

  • By his generals, about how good his army was.
  • By his spooks, that they had indeed bribed all the right people in Ukraine. (In fact the spooks took the bribe money for themselves. To prevent the war, to prevent Putin finding they’d pocketed the money, they told the west Russia’s invasion plans — which is how the US was able to announce the upcoming invasion so accurately.)

Doubling down on his initial error, when no longer misinformed, is unforgivable.