many years, I have studied and given much thought to the UN Charter’s
prohibition against aggressive war. No one can seriously doubt that the
primary purpose of the document – drafted and agreed to on the heels of
the horrors of WWII – was and is to prevent war and “to maintain international peace and security,” a phrase repeated throughout.
As the Justices at Nuremberg correctly concluded, “To
initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it
is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes
in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
That is, war is the paramount crime because all of the evils we so
abhor – genocide, crimes against humanity, etc. – are the terrible
fruits of the tree of war.
In light of the above, I have spent my
entire adult life opposing war and foreign intervention. Of course, as
an American, I have had ample occasion to do so given that the US is, as
Martin Luther King stated, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Similarly, Jimmy Carter recently stated that the US is “the most war-like nation in the history of the world.”
This is demonstrably true, of course. In my lifetime alone, the US has
waged aggressive and unprovoked wars against countries such as Vietnam,
Grenada, Panama, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan,
Libya, and Somalia. And this doesn’t even count the numerous proxy wars
the US has fought via surrogates (e.g., through the Contras in
Nicaragua, various jihadist groups in Syria, and through Saudi Arabia
and the UAE in the ongoing war against Yemen).
Indeed, through such wars, the US has done more, and intentionally
so, than any nation on earth to undermine the legal pillars prohibiting
war. It is in reaction to this, and with the express desire to try to
salvage what is left of the UN Charter’s legal prohibitions against
aggressive war, that a number of nations, including Russia and China,
founded the Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter.
short, for the US to complain about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a
violation of international law is, at best, the pot calling the kettle
black. Still, the fact that the US is so obviously hypocritical in this
regard does not necessarily mean Washington is automatically wrong. In
the end, we must analyze Russia’s conduct on its own merits.
must begin this discussion by accepting the fact that there was already
a war happening in Ukraine for the eight years preceding the Russian
military incursion in February 2022. And, this war by the government in
Kiev against the Russian-speaking peoples of the Donbass – a war which
claimed the lives of around 14,000 people, many of them children, and displaced around 1.5 million more
even before Russia’s military operation – has been arguably genocidal.
That is, the government in Kiev, and especially its neo-Nazi battalions,
carried out attacks against these peoples with the intention of
destroying, at least in part, the ethnic Russians precisely because of
While the US government and media are trying
hard to obscure these facts, they are undeniable, and were indeed
reported by the mainstream Western press before it became inconvenient
to do so. Thus, a commentary run by Reuters
in 2018 clearly sets out how the neo-Nazis battalions have been
integrated into the official Ukrainian military and police forces, and
are thus state, or at least quasi-state, actors for which the Ukrainian
government bears legal responsibility. As the piece relates, there are
30-some right-wing extremist groups operating in Ukraine, that “have been formally integrated into Ukraine’s armed forces,” and that “the more extreme among these groups promote an intolerant and illiberal ideology... ”
is, they possess and promote hatred towards ethnic Russians, the Roma
peoples, and members of the LGBT community as well, and they act out
this hatred by attacking, killing, and displacing these peoples. The piece cites the Western human rights group Freedom House for the proposition that
“an increase in patriotic discourse supporting Ukraine in its conflict
with Russia has coincided with an apparent increase in both public hate
speech, sometimes by public officials and magnified by the media, as
well as violence towards vulnerable groups such as the LGBT community.” And this has been accompanied by actual violence. For example, “Azov
and other militias have attacked anti-fascist demonstrations, city
council meetings, media outlets, art exhibitions, foreign students and
As reported in Newsweek,
Amnesty International had been reporting on these very same extremist
hate groups and their accompanying violent activities as far back as
It is this very type of evidence – public hate speech
combined with large-scale, systemic attacks on the targets of the speech
– that has been used to convict individuals of genocide, for example in
the Rwandan genocide case against Jean-Paul Akayesu.
To add to this, there are well over 500,000 residents of the Donbass region
of Ukraine who are also Russian citizens. While that estimate was made
in April 2021, after Vladimir Putin’s 2019 decree simplified the process
of obtaining Russian citizenship for residents of the Donetsk and
Lugansk People’s Republics, this means that Russian citizens were being
subjected to racialized attack by neo-Nazi groups integrated into the
government of Ukraine, and right on the border of Russia.
And lest Russia was uncertain about the Ukrainian government’s
intentions regarding the Russian ethnics in the Donbass, the government
in Kiev passed new language laws in 2019 which made it clear that
Russian speakers were at best second-class citizens. Indeed, the usually
pro-West Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed alarm about these laws. As the HRW explained
in an early-2022 report which received nearly no coverage in the
Western media, the government in Kiev passed legislation which “requires
print media outlets registered in Ukraine to publish in Ukrainian.
Publications in other languages must also be accompanied by a Ukrainian
version, equivalent in content, volume, and method of printing.
Additionally, places of distribution such as newsstands must have at
least half their content in Ukrainian.”
And, according to the HRW, “Article
25, regarding print media outlets, makes exceptions for certain
minority languages, English, and official EU languages, but not for
Russian” (emphasis added), the justification for that being “the century of oppression of … Ukrainian in favor of Russian.” As the HRW explained, “[t]here
are concerns about whether guarantees for minority languages are
sufficient. The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s top advisory
body on constitutional matters, said that several of the law’s articles,
including article 25, ‘failed to strike a fair balance’ between
promoting the Ukrainian language and safeguarding minorities’ linguistic
rights.” Such legislation only underscored the Ukrainian
government’s desire to destroy the culture, if not the very existence,
of the ethnic Russians in Ukraine.
Moreover, as the Organization of World Peace reported in 2021, “according
to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Decree no. 117/2021,
Ukraine has committed to putting all options on the table to taking
back control over the Russian annexed Crimea region. Signed on March
24th, President Zelensky has committed the country to pursue strategies
that . . . ‘will prepare and implement measures to ensure the
de-occupation and reintegration of the peninsula.’” Given that the
residents of Crimea, most of whom are ethnic Russians, are quite happy
with the current state of affairs under Russian governance – this,
according to a 2020 Washington Post report
– Zelensky’s threat in this regard was not only a threat against Russia
itself but was also a threat of potentially massive bloodshed against a
people who do not want to go back to Ukraine.
Without more, this
situation represents a much more compelling case for justifying Russian
intervention under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine which
has been advocated by such Western ‘humanitarians’ as Hillary Clinton,
Samantha Power, and Susan Rice, and which was relied upon to justify the
NATO interventions in countries like the former Yugoslavia and Libya.
And moreover, none of the states involved in these interventions could
possibly make any claims of self-defense. This is especially the case
for the United States, which has been sending forces thousands of miles
away to drop bombs on far-flung lands.
Indeed, this recalls to mind the words of the great Palestinian
intellectual, Edward Said, who opined years ago in his influential work,
‘Culture and Imperialism’, that it is simply unfair to try to compare the empire-building of Russia with that of the West. As Dr. Said explained, “Russia
… acquired its imperial territories almost exclusively by adjacence.
Unlike Britain and France, which jumped thousands of miles beyond their
own borders to other continents, Russia moved to swallow whatever land
or peoples stood next to its borders … but in the English and French
cases, the sheer distance of attractive territories summoned the
projection of far-flung interest ...” This observation is doubly applicable to the United States.
there is more to consider regarding Russia’s claimed justifications for
intervention. Thus, not only are there radical groups on its border
attacking ethnic Russians, including Russian citizens, but also, these
groups have reportedly been funded and trained by the United States with
the very intention of destabilizing and undermining the territorial
integrity of Russia itself.
CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for
elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence
personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security
officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in
2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S.,
according to some of those officials.
program has involved ‘very specific training on skills that would
enhance’ the Ukrainians’ ‘ability to push back against the Russians,’
said the former senior intelligence official.
training, which has included ‘tactical stuff,’ is ‘going to start
looking pretty offensive if Russians invade Ukraine,’ said the former
One person familiar with the
program put it more bluntly. ‘The United States is training an
insurgency,’ said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how ‘to kill Russians.’”
remove any doubt that the destabilization of Russia itself has been the
goal of the US in these efforts, one should examine the very telling 2019 report
of the Rand Corporation – a long-time defense contractor called upon to
advise the US on how to carry out its policy goals. In this report,
entitled, ‘Overextending and Unbalancing Russia, Assessing the Impact of
Cost-Imposing Options’, one of the many tactics listed is “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine” in order to “exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability.”
In short, there is no doubt that Russia has been threatened, and in a
quite profound way, with concrete destabilizing efforts by the US, NATO
and their extremist surrogates in Ukraine. Russia has been so
threatened for a full eight years. And Russia has witnessed what such
destabilizing efforts have meant for other countries, from Iraq to
Afghanistan to Syria to Libya – that is, nearly a total annihilation of
the country as a functioning nation-state.
It is hard to
conceive of a more pressing case for the need to act in defense of the
nation. While the UN Charter prohibits unilateral acts of war, it also
provides, in Article 51, that “[n]othing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense... ” And this right of self-defense has been interpreted to permit countries to respond, not only to actual armed attacks, but also to the threat of imminent attack.
light of the above, it is my assessment that this right has been
triggered in the instant case, and that Russia had a right to act in its
own self-defense by intervening in Ukraine, which had become a proxy of
the US and NATO for an assault – not only on Russian ethnics within
Ukraine – but also upon Russia itself. A contrary conclusion would
simply ignore the dire realities facing Russia.
For years, from Mali to Afghanistan, I have worked for peace and
risked my life for it. It is therefore not a question of justifying war,
but of understanding what led us to it. I notice that the “experts” who
take turns on television analyze the situation on the basis of dubious
information, most often hypotheses erected as facts—and then we no
longer manage to understand what is happening. This is how panics are
The problem is not so much to know who is right in this conflict, but to question the way our leaders make their decisions.
Let’s try to examine the roots of the conflict. It starts with those
who for the last eight years have been talking about “separatists” or
“independentists” from Donbass. This is not true. The referendums
conducted by the two self-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in
May 2014, were not referendums of “independence” (независимость), as some unscrupulous journalists have claimed, but referendums
of “self-determination” or “autonomy” (самостоятельность). The
qualifier “pro-Russian” suggests that Russia was a party to the
conflict, which was not the case, and the term “Russian speakers” would
have been more honest. Moreover, these referendums were conducted
against the advice of Vladimir Putin.
In fact, these Republics were not seeking to separate from Ukraine,
but to have a status of autonomy, guaranteeing them the use of the
Russian language as an official language. For the first legislative act
of the new government resulting from the overthrow of President
Yanukovych, was the abolition, on February 23, 2014, of the
Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law of 2012 that made Russian an official
language. A bit like if putschists decided that French and Italian would
no longer be official languages in Switzerland.
This decision caused a storm in the Russian-speaking population. The
result was a fierce repression against the Russian-speaking regions
(Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Lugansk and Donetsk) which was carried
out beginning in February 2014 and led to a militarization of the
situation and some massacres (in Odessa and Marioupol, for the most
notable). At the end of summer 2014, only the self-proclaimed Republics
of Donetsk and Lugansk remained.
At this stage, too rigid and engrossed in a doctrinaire approach to
the art of operations, the Ukrainian general staff subdued the enemy
without managing to prevail. The examination of the course of the
fighting in 2014-2016 in the Donbass shows that the Ukrainian general
staff systematically and mechanically applied the same operative
schemes. However, the war waged by the autonomists was very similar to
what we observed in the Sahel: highly mobile operations conducted with
light means. With a more flexible and less doctrinaire approach, the
rebels were able to exploit the inertia of Ukrainian forces to
repeatedly “trap” them.
In 2014, when I was at NATO, I was responsible for the fight against
the proliferation of small arms, and we were trying to detect Russian
arms deliveries to the rebels, to see if Moscow was involved. The
information we received then came almost entirely from Polish
intelligence services and did not “fit” with the information coming from
the OSCE—despite rather crude allegations, there were no deliveries of
weapons and military equipment from Russia.
The rebels were armed thanks to the defection of Russian-speaking
Ukrainian units that went over to the rebel side. As Ukrainian failures
continued, tank, artillery and anti-aircraft battalions swelled the
ranks of the autonomists. This is what pushed the Ukrainians to commit
to the Minsk Agreements.
But just after signing the Minsk 1 Agreements, the Ukrainian
President Petro Poroshenko launched a massive anti-terrorist operation
(ATO/Антитерористична операція) against the Donbass. Bis repetita placent:
poorly advised by NATO officers, the Ukrainians suffered a crushing
defeat in Debaltsevo, which forced them to engage in the Minsk 2
It is essential to recall here that Minsk 1 (September 2014) and
Minsk 2 (February 2015) Agreements did not provide for the separation or
independence of the Republics, but their autonomy within the framework
of Ukraine. Those who have read the Agreements
(there are very, very, very few of those who actually have) will note
that it is written in all letters that the status of the Republics was
to be negotiated between Kiev and the representatives of the Republics,
for an internal solution to the Ukraine.
That is why since 2014, Russia has systematically demanded their
implementation while refusing to be a party to the negotiations, because
it was an internal matter of the Ukraine. On the other side, the
West—led by France—systematically tried to replace the Minsk Agreements
with the “Normandy format,” which put Russians and Ukrainians
face-to-face. However, let us remember that there were never any Russian
troops in the Donbass before 23-24 February 2022. Moreover, OSCE observers have never
observed the slightest trace of Russian units operating in the Donbass.
For example, the U.S. intelligence map published by the Washington Post on December 3, 2021 does not show Russian troops in the Donbass.
In October 2015, Vasyl Hrytsak, director of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), confessed
that only 56 Russian fighters had been observed in the Donbass. This
was exactly comparable to the Swiss who went to fight in Bosnia on
weekends, in the 1990s, or the French who go to fight in the Ukraine
The Ukrainian army was then in a deplorable state. In October 2018,
after four years of war, the chief Ukrainian military prosecutor,
Anatoly Matios, stated that
Ukraine had lost 2,700 men in the Donbass: 891 from illnesses, 318 from
road accidents, 177 from other accidents, 175 from poisonings (alcohol,
drugs), 172 from careless handling of weapons, 101 from breaches of
security regulations, 228 from murders and 615 from suicides.
In fact, the army was undermined by the corruption of its cadres and
no longer enjoyed the support of the population. According to a British Home Office report,
in the March/April 2014 recall of reservists, 70 percent did not show
up for the first session, 80 percent for the second, 90 percent for the
third, and 95 percent for the fourth. In October/November 2017, 70% of conscripts did not show up for the “Fall 2017” recall campaign. This is not counting suicides and desertions
(often over to the autonomists), which reached up to 30 percent of the
workforce in the ATO area. Young Ukrainians refused to go and fight in
the Donbass and preferred emigration, which also explains, at least
partially, the demographic deficit of the country.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense then turned to NATO to help make
its armed forces more “attractive.” Having already worked on similar
projects within the framework of the United Nations, I was asked by NATO
to participate in a program to restore the image of the Ukrainian armed
forces. But this is a long-term process and the Ukrainians wanted to
So, to compensate for the lack of soldiers, the Ukrainian government
resorted to paramilitary militias. They are essentially composed of
foreign mercenaries, often extreme right-wing militants. In 2020, they
constituted about 40 percent of the Ukrainian forces and numbered about
102,000 men, according to Reuters.
They were armed, financed and trained by the United States, Great
Britain, Canada and France. There were more than 19
Western countries have thus clearly created and supported Ukrainian far-right militias. In October 2021, the Jerusalem Post sounded the alarm by denouncing the Centuria project.
These militias had been operating in the Donbass since 2014, with
Western support. Even if one can argue about the term “Nazi,” the fact
remains that these militias are violent, convey a nauseating ideology
and are virulently anti-Semitic. Their anti-Semitism is more cultural than political,
which is why the term “Nazi” is not really appropriate. Their hatred of
the Jew stems from the great famines of the 1920s and 1930s in the
Ukraine, resulting from Stalin’s confiscation of crops to finance the
modernization of the Red Army. This genocide—known in the Ukraine as the
Holodomor—was perpetrated by the NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB),
whose upper echelons of leadership were mainly composed of Jews. This is
why, today, Ukrainian extremists are asking Israel to apologize for the crimes of communism, as the Jerusalem Post notes. This is a far cry from Vladimir Putin’s “rewriting of history.”
These militias, originating from the far-right groups that animated
the Euromaidan revolution in 2014, are composed of fanatical and brutal
individuals. The best known of these is the Azov Regiment, whose emblem
is reminiscent of the 2nd SS Das Reich Panzer Division, which is revered
in the Ukraine for liberating Kharkov from the Soviets in 1943, before
carrying out the 1944 Oradour-sur-Glane massacre in France.
Among the famous figures of the Azov regiment was the opponent Roman
Protassevitch, arrested in 2021 by the Belarusian authorities following
the case of RyanAir flight FR4978. On May 23, 2021, the deliberate hijacking of an airliner by a MiG-29—supposedly with Putin’s approval—was mentioned as a reason for arresting Protassevich, although the information available at the time did not confirm this scenario at all.
But then it was necessary to show that President Lukashenko was a
thug and Protassevich a “journalist” who loved democracy. However, a
rather revealing investigation produced by an American NGO
in 2020 highlighted Protassevitch’s far-right militant activities. The
Western conspiracy movement then started, and unscrupulous media “air-brushed” his biography. Finally, in January 2022, the ICAO report
was published and showed that despite some procedural errors, Belarus
acted in accordance with the rules in force and that the MiG-29 took off
15 minutes after the RyanAir pilot decided to land in Minsk. So no
Belarusian plot and even less Putin. Ah!… Another detail: Protassevitch,
cruelly tortured by the Belarusian police, was now free. Those who would like to correspond with him, can go on his Twitter account.
So, the West supported and continued to arm militias that have been guilty of numerous crimes against civilian populations
since 2014: rape, torture and massacres. But while the Swiss government
has been very quick to take sanctions against Russia, it has not
adopted any against the Ukraine, which has been massacring its own
population since 2014. In fact, those who defend human rights in the Ukraine
have long condemned the actions of these groups, but have not been
supported by our governments. Because, in reality, we are not trying to
help the Ukraine, but to fight Russia.
The integration of these paramilitary forces into the National Guard was not at all accompanied by a “denazification,” as some claim. Among the many examples, that of the Azov Regiment’s insignia is instructive:
In 2022, very schematically, the Ukrainian armed forces fighting the Russian offensive were organized as:
The Army, subordinated to the Ministry of Defense. It is
organized into 3 army corps and composed of maneuver formations (tanks,
heavy artillery, missiles, etc.).
The National Guard, which depends on the Ministry of the Interior and is organized into 5 territorial commands.
The National Guard is therefore a territorial defense force that is
not part of the Ukrainian army. It includes paramilitary militias,
called “volunteer battalions” (добровольчі батальйоні), also known by
the evocative name of “reprisal battalions,” and composed of infantry.
Primarily trained for urban combat, they now defend cities such as
Kharkov, Mariupol, Odessa, Kiev, etc.
Part Two: The War
As a former head of the Warsaw Pact forces in the Swiss strategic
intelligence service, I observe with sadness—but not astonishment—that
our services are no longer able to understand the military situation in
Ukraine. The self-proclaimed “experts” who parade on our screens
tirelessly relay the same information modulated by the claim that
Russia—and Vladimir Putin—is irrational. Let’s take a step back.
1. The Outbreak Of War
Since November 2021, the Americans have been constantly threatening a
Russian invasion of the Ukraine. However, the Ukrainians did not seem
to agree. Why not?
We have to go back to March 24, 2021. On that day, Volodymyr Zelensky issued a decree for the recapture of the Crimea,
and began to deploy his forces to the south of the country. At the same
time, several NATO exercises were conducted between the Black Sea and
the Baltic Sea, accompanied by a significant increase in reconnaissance flights
along the Russian border. Russia then conducted several exercises to
test the operational readiness of its troops and to show that it was
following the evolution of the situation.
Things calmed down until October-November with the end of the ZAPAD
21 exercises, whose troop movements were interpreted as a reinforcement
for an offensive against the Ukraine. However, even the Ukrainian
authorities refuted the idea of Russian preparations for a war, and
Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukrainian Minister of Defense, states that there had been no change on its border since the spring.
In violation of the Minsk Agreements, the Ukraine was conducting air operations in Donbass using drones, including at least one strike
against a fuel depot in Donetsk in October 2021. The American press
noted this, but not the Europeans; and no one condemned these
In February 2022, events were precipitated. On February 7, during his visit to Moscow, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed to Vladimir Putin his commitment to the Minsk Agreements, a commitment he would repeat
after his meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky the next day. But on February
11, in Berlin, after nine hours of work, the meeting of political
advisors of the leaders of the “Normandy format” ended, without any
concrete result: the Ukrainians still refused to apply the Minsk Agreements,
apparently under pressure from the United States. Vladimir Putin noted
that Macron had made empty promises and that the West was not ready to
enforce the agreements, as it had been doing for eight years.
Ukrainian preparations in the contact zone continued. The Russian
Parliament became alarmed; and on February 15 asked Vladimir Putin to
recognize the independence of the Republics, which he refused to do.
On 17 February, President Joe Biden announced
that Russia would attack the Ukraine in the next few days. How did he
know this? It is a mystery. But since the 16th, the artillery shelling
of the population of Donbass increased dramatically, as the daily
reports of the OSCE observers show. Naturally, neither the media, nor
the European Union, nor NATO, nor any Western government reacts or
intervenes. It will be said later that this is Russian disinformation.
In fact, it seems that the European Union and some countries have
deliberately kept silent about the massacre of the Donbass population,
knowing that this would provoke a Russian intervention.
At the same time, there were reports of sabotage in the Donbass. On
18 January, Donbass fighters intercepted saboteurs, who spoke Polish and
were equipped with Western equipment and who were seeking to create
chemical incidents in Gorlivka. They could have been CIA mercenaries,
led or “advised” by Americans and composed of Ukrainian or European
fighters, to carry out sabotage actions in the Donbass Republics.
In fact, as early as February 16, Joe Biden knew that the Ukrainians
had begun shelling the civilian population of Donbass, putting Vladimir
Putin in front of a difficult choice: to help Donbass militarily and
create an international problem, or to stand by and watch the
Russian-speaking people of Donbass being crushed.
If he decided to intervene, Putin could invoke the international
obligation of “Responsibility To Protect” (R2P). But he knew that
whatever its nature or scale, the intervention would trigger a storm of
sanctions. Therefore, whether Russian intervention were limited to the
Donbass or went further to put pressure on the West for the status of
the Ukraine, the price to pay would be the same. This is what he
explained in his speech on February 21.
On that day, he agreed to the request of the Duma and recognized the
independence of the two Donbass Republics and, at the same time, he
signed friendship and assistance treaties with them.
The Ukrainian artillery bombardment of the Donbass population
continued, and, on 23 February, the two Republics asked for military
assistance from Russia. On 24 February, Vladimir Putin invoked Article
51 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for mutual military
assistance in the framework of a defensive alliance.
In order to make the Russian intervention totally illegal in the eyes
of the public we deliberately hid the fact that the war actually
started on February 16. The Ukrainian army was preparing to attack the
Donbass as early as 2021, as some Russian and European intelligence
services were well aware. Jurists will judge.
In his speech of February 24, Vladimir Putin stated the two
objectives of his operation: “demilitarize” and “denazify” the Ukraine.
So, it is not a question of taking over the Ukraine, nor even,
presumably, of occupying it; and certainly not of destroying it.
From then on, our visibility on the course of the operation is
limited: the Russians have an excellent security of operations (OPSEC)
and the details of their planning are not known. But fairly quickly, the
course of the operation allows us to understand how the strategic
objectives were translated on the operational level.
ground destruction of Ukrainian aviation, air defense systems and reconnaissance assets;
of command and intelligence structures (C3I), as well as the main
logistical routes in the depth of the territory;
encirclement of the bulk of the Ukrainian army massed in the southeast of the country.
destruction or neutralization of volunteer battalions operating
in the cities of Odessa, Kharkov, and Mariupol, as well as in various
facilities in the territory.
The Russian offensive was carried out in a very “classic” manner.
Initially—as the Israelis had done in 1967—with the destruction on the
ground of the air force in the very first hours. Then, we witnessed a
simultaneous progression along several axes according to the principle
of “flowing water”: advance everywhere where resistance was weak and
leave the cities (very demanding in terms of troops) for later. In the
north, the Chernobyl power plant was occupied immediately to prevent
acts of sabotage. The images of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers guarding the plant together are of course not shown.
The idea that Russia is trying to take over Kiev, the capital, to
eliminate Zelensky, comes typically from the West—that is what they did
in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and what they wanted to do in Syria
with the help of the Islamic State. But Vladimir Putin never intended
to shoot or topple Zelensky. Instead, Russia seeks to keep him in power
by pushing him to negotiate, by surrounding Kiev. Up till now, he had
refused to implement the Minsk Agreements. But now the Russians want to
obtain the neutrality of the Ukraine.
Many Western commentators were surprised that the Russians continued
to seek a negotiated solution while conducting military operations. The
explanation lies in the Russian strategic outlook since the Soviet era.
For the West, war begins when politics ends. However, the Russian
approach follows a Clausewitzian inspiration: war is the continuity of
politics and one can move fluidly from one to the other, even during
combat. This allows one to create pressure on the adversary and push him
From an operational point of view, the Russian offensive was an
example of its kind: in six days, the Russians seized a territory as
large as the United Kingdom, with a speed of advance greater than what
the Wehrmacht had achieved in 1940.
The bulk of the Ukrainian army was deployed in the south of the
country in preparation for a major operation against the Donbass. This
is why Russian forces were able to encircle it from the beginning of
March in the “cauldron” between Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk,
with a thrust from the East through Kharkov and another from the South
from Crimea. Troops from the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) Republics
are complementing the Russian forces with a push from the East.
At this stage, Russian forces are slowly tightening the noose, but
are no longer under time pressure. Their demilitarization goal is all
but achieved and the remaining Ukrainian forces no longer have an
operational and strategic command structure.
The “slowdown” that our “experts” attribute to poor logistics is only
the consequence of having achieved their objectives. Russia does not
seem to want to engage in an occupation of the entire Ukrainian
territory. In fact, it seems that Russia is trying to limit its advance
to the linguistic border of the country.
Our media speak of indiscriminate bombardments against the civilian
population, especially in Kharkov, and Dantean images are broadcast in a
loop. However, Gonzalo Lira, a Latin American who lives there, presents
us with a calm city on March 10 and March 11.
It is true that it is a large city and we do not see everything—but
this seems to indicate that we are not in the total war that we are
served continuously on our screens.
As for the Donbass Republics, they have “liberated” their own territories and are fighting in the city of Mariupol.
In cities like Kharkov, Mariupol and Odessa, the defense is provided
by paramilitary militias. They know that the objective of
“denazification” is aimed primarily at them.
For an attacker in an urbanized area, civilians are a problem. This
is why Russia is seeking to create humanitarian corridors to empty
cities of civilians and leave only the militias, to fight them more
Conversely, these militias seek to keep civilians in the cities in
order to dissuade the Russian army from fighting there. This is why they
are reluctant to implement these corridors and do everything to ensure
that Russian efforts are unsuccessful—they can use the civilian
population as “human shields. Videos showing civilians trying to leave
Mariupol and beaten up by fighters of the Azov regiment are of course
carefully censored here.
On Facebook, the Azov group was considered in the same category as
the Islamic State and subject to the platform’s “policy on dangerous
individuals and organizations.” It was therefore forbidden to glorify
it, and “posts” that were favorable to it were systematically banned.
But on February 24, Facebook changed its policy and allowed posts favorable to the militia. In the same spirit, in March, the platform authorized, in the former Eastern countries, calls for the murder of Russian soldiers and leaders. So much for the values that inspire our leaders, as we shall see.
Our media propagate a romantic image of popular resistance. It is
this image that led the European Union to finance the distribution of
arms to the civilian population. This is a criminal act. In my capacity
as head of peacekeeping doctrine at the UN, I worked on the issue of
civilian protection. We found that violence against civilians occurred
in very specific contexts. In particular, when weapons are abundant and
there are no command structures.
These command structures are the essence of armies: their function is
to channel the use of force towards an objective. By arming citizens in
a haphazard manner, as is currently the case, the EU is turning them
into combatants, with the consequential effect of making them potential
targets. Moreover, without command, without operational goals, the
distribution of arms leads inevitably to settling of scores, banditry
and actions that are more deadly than effective. War becomes a matter of
emotions. Force becomes violence. This is what happened in Tawarga
(Libya) from 11 to 13 August 2011, where 30,000 black Africans were
massacred with weapons parachuted (illegally) by France. By the way, the
British Royal Institute for Strategic Studies (RUSI) does not see any added value in these arms deliveries.
Moreover, by delivering arms to a country at war, one exposes oneself
to being considered a belligerent. The Russian strikes of March 13,
2022, against the Mykolayev air base follow Russian warnings that arms shipments would be treated as hostile targets.
The EU is repeating the disastrous experience of the Third Reich in
the final hours of the Battle of Berlin. War must be left to the
military and when one side has lost, it must be admitted. And if there
is to be resistance, it must be led and structured. But we are doing
exactly the opposite—we are pushing citizens to go and fight and at the
same time, Facebook authorizes calls for the murder of Russian soldiers
and leaders. So much for the values that inspire us.
Some intelligence services see this irresponsible decision as a way
to use the Ukrainian population as cannon fodder to fight Vladimir
Putin’s Russia. This kind of murderous decision should have been left to
the colleagues of Ursula von der Leyen’s grandfather. It would have
been better to engage in negotiations and thus obtain guarantees for the
civilian population than to add fuel to the fire. It is easy to be
combative with the blood of others.
4. The Maternity Hospital At Mariupol
It is important to understand beforehand that it is not the Ukrainian
army that is defending Marioupol, but the Azov militia, composed of
In its March 7, 2022 summary of the situation, the Russian UN mission
in New York stated that “Residents report that Ukrainian armed forces
expelled staff from the Mariupol city birth hospital No. 1 and set up a
firing post inside the facility.”
On March 8, the independent Russian media Lenta.ru,
published the testimony of civilians from Marioupol who told that the
maternity hospital was taken over by the militia of the Azov regiment,
and who drove out the civilian occupants by threatening them with their
weapons. They confirmed the statements of the Russian ambassador a few
The hospital in Mariupol occupies a dominant position, perfectly
suited for the installation of anti-tank weapons and for observation. On
9 March, Russian forces struck the building. According to CNN,
17 people were wounded, but the images do not show any casualties in
the building and there is no evidence that the victims mentioned are
related to this strike. There is talk of children, but in reality, there
is nothing. This may be true, but it may not be true. This does not
prevent the leaders of the EU from seeing this as a war crime. And this allows Zelensky to call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
In reality, we do not know exactly what happened. But the sequence of
events tends to confirm that Russian forces struck a position of the
Azov regiment and that the maternity ward was then free of civilians.
The problem is that the paramilitary militias that defend the cities
are encouraged by the international community not to respect the customs
of war. It seems that the Ukrainians have replayed the scenario of the Kuwait City maternity hospital
in 1990, which was totally staged by the firm Hill & Knowlton for
$10.7 million in order to convince the United Nations Security Council
to intervene in Iraq for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
Western politicians have accepted civilian strikes in the Donbass for
eight years, without adopting any sanctions against the Ukrainian
government. We have long since entered a dynamic where Western
politicians have agreed to sacrifice international law towards their goal of weakening Russia.
Part Three: Conclusions
As an ex-intelligence professional, the first thing that strikes me
is the total absence of Western intelligence services in the
representation of the situation over the past year. In Switzerland,
the services have been criticized for not having provided a correct
picture of the situation. In fact, it seems that throughout the Western
world, intelligence services have been overwhelmed by the politicians.
The problem is that it is the politicians who decide—the best
intelligence service in the world is useless if the decision-maker does
not listen. This is what happened during this crisis.
That said, while some intelligence services had a very accurate and
rational picture of the situation, others clearly had the same picture
as that propagated by our media. In this crisis, the services of the
countries of the “new Europe” played an important role. The problem is
that, from experience, I have found them to be extremely bad at the
analytical level—doctrinaire, they lack the intellectual and political
independence necessary to assess a situation with military “quality.” It
is better to have them as enemies than as friends.
Second, it seems that in some European countries, politicians have
deliberately ignored their services in order to respond ideologically to
the situation. That is why this crisis has been irrational from the
beginning. It should be noted that all the documents that were presented
to the public during this crisis were presented by politicians based on
Some Western politicians obviously wanted there to be a conflict. In
the United States, the attack scenarios presented by Anthony Blinken to
the Security Council were only the product of the imagination of a Tiger Team working
for him—he did exactly as Donald Rumsfeld did in 2002, who had thus
“bypassed” the CIA and other intelligence services that were much less
assertive about Iraqi chemical weapons.
The dramatic developments we are witnessing today have causes that we knew about but refused to see:
on the strategic level, the expansion of NATO (which we have not dealt with here);
on the political level, the Western refusal to implement the Minsk Agreements;
operationally, the continuous and repeated attacks on the civilian
population of the Donbass over the past years and the dramatic increase
in late February 2022.
In other words, we can naturally deplore and condemn the Russian
attack. But WE (that is: the United States, France and the European
Union in the lead) have created the conditions for a conflict to break
out. We show compassion for the Ukrainian people and the two million refugees. That is fine. But if we had had a modicum of compassion for the same number of refugees from the Ukrainian populations
of Donbass massacred by their own government and who sought refuge in
Russia for eight years, none of this would probably have happened.
Civilian casualties caused by active hostilities in 2018-2021, per territory
In territory control- led by the self-pro- claimed “Republics”
In Government- controlled territory
In “no man’s land”
Decrease compared with previous year, per cent
we can see, more than 80% of the victims in Donbass were the result of
the Ukrainian army’s shelling. For years, the West remained silent about
the massacre of Russian-speaking Ukrainians by the government of Kiev,
without ever trying to bring pressure on Kiev. It is this silence that
forced the Russian side to act. [Source:“Conflict-related civilian casualties,“ United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.]
Whether the term “genocide” applies to the abuses suffered by the
people of Donbass is an open question. The term is generally reserved
for cases of greater magnitude (Holocaust, etc.). But the definition
given by the Genocide Convention is probably broad enough to apply to this case. Legal scholars will understand this.
Clearly, this conflict has led us into hysteria. Sanctions seem to
have become the preferred tool of our foreign policies. If we had
insisted that Ukraine abide by the Minsk Agreements, which we had
negotiated and endorsed, none of this would have happened. Vladimir
Putin’s condemnation is also ours. There is no point in whining
afterwards—we should have acted earlier. However, neither Emmanuel
Macron (as guarantor and member of the UN Security Council), nor Olaf
Scholz, nor Volodymyr Zelensky have respected their commitments. In the
end, the real defeat is that of those who have no voice.
The European Union was unable to promote the implementation of the
Minsk agreements—on the contrary, it did not react when Ukraine was
bombing its own population in the Donbass. Had it done so, Vladimir
Putin would not have needed to react. Absent from the diplomatic phase,
the EU distinguished itself by fueling the conflict. On February 27, the
Ukrainian government agreed to enter into negotiations with Russia. But a few hours later, the European Union voted a budget of 450 million euros
to supply arms to the Ukraine, adding fuel to the fire. From then on,
the Ukrainians felt that they did not need to reach an agreement. The
resistance of the Azov militia in Mariupol even led to a boost of 500 million euros for weapons.
In the Ukraine, with the blessing of the Western countries, those who
are in favor of a negotiation have been eliminated. This is the case of
Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, assassinated on March 5
by the Ukrainian secret service (SBU) because he was too favorable to
Russia and was considered a traitor. The same fate befell Dmitry
Demyanenko, former deputy head of the SBU’s main directorate for Kiev
and its region, who was assassinated on March 10 because he was too
favorable to an agreement with Russia—he was shot by the Mirotvorets
(“Peacemaker”) militia. This militia is associated with the Mirotvorets
website, which lists
the “enemies of Ukraine,” with their personal data, addresses and
telephone numbers, so that they can be harassed or even eliminated; a
practice that is punishable in many countries, but not in the Ukraine.
The UN and some European countries have demanded the closure of this
site—refused by the Rada.
In the end, the price will be high, but Vladimir Putin will likely
achieve the goals he set for himself. His ties with Beijing have
solidified. China is emerging as a mediator in the conflict, while
Switzerland is joining the list of Russia’s enemies. The Americans have
to ask Venezuela and Iran for oil to get out of the energy impasse they
have put themselves in—Juan Guaido is leaving the scene for good and the
United States has to piteously backtrack on the sanctions imposed on
Western ministers who seek to collapse the Russian economy and make the Russian people suffer, or even call for the assassination
of Putin, show (even if they have partially reversed the form of their
words, but not the substance!) that our leaders are no better than those
we hate—for sanctioning Russian athletes in the Para-Olympic Games or
Russian artists has nothing to do with fighting Putin.
Thus, we recognize that Russia is a democracy since we consider that
the Russian people are responsible for the war. If this is not the case,
then why do we seek to punish a whole population for the fault of one?
Let us remember that collective punishment is forbidden by the Geneva
The lesson to be learned from this conflict is our sense of variable
geometric humanity. If we cared so much about peace and the Ukraine, why
didn’t we encourage the Ukraine to respect the agreements it had signed
and that the members of the Security Council had approved?
The integrity of the media is measured by their willingness to work
within the terms of the Munich Charter. They succeeded in propagating hatred of the Chinese during the Covid crisis and their polarized message leads to the same effects against the Russians. Journalism is becoming more and more unprofessional and militant.
As Goethe said: “The greater the light, the darker the shadow.” The
more the sanctions against Russia are disproportionate, the more the
cases where we have done nothing highlight our racism and servility. Why
have no Western politicians reacted to the strikes against the civilian
population of Donbass for eight years?
Because finally, what makes the conflict in the Ukraine more
blameworthy than the war in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya? What sanctions
have we adopted against those who deliberately lied to the international
community in order to wage unjust, unjustified and murderous wars? Have
we sought to “make the American people suffer” for lying to us (because
they are a democracy!) before the war in Iraq? Have we adopted a single
sanction against the countries, companies or politicians who are
supplying weapons to the conflict in Yemen, considered to be the “worst humanitarian disaster in the world?”
Have we sanctioned the countries of the European Union that practice
the most abject torture on their territory for the benefit of the United
To ask the question is to answer it… and the answer is not pretty.
Jacques Baud is a former colonel of
the General Staff, ex-member of the Swiss strategic intelligence,
specialist on Eastern countries. He was trained in the American and
British intelligence services. He has served as Policy Chief for United
Nations Peace Operations. As a UN expert on rule of law and security
institutions, he designed and led the first multidimensional UN
intelligence unit in the Sudan. He has worked for the African Union and
was for 5 years responsible for the fight, at NATO, against the
proliferation of small arms. He was involved in discussions with the
highest Russian military and intelligence officials just after the fall
of the USSR. Within NATO, he followed the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and
later participated in programs to assist the Ukraine. He is the author
of several books on intelligence, war and terrorism, in particular Le Détournement published by SIGEST, Gouverner par les fake news, L’affaire Navalny. His latest book is Poutine, maître du jeu? published by Max Milo.