Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

this was really well-written and an engaging read. i might personally not see it the same way, (cuz of ideological differences that lead me to different interpretations/characterizations of certain events you reference) but i appreciate how much research clearly went into this. it’s cool that you’re using your platform to talk about these issues cuz so many americans don’t even have a baseline understanding of the historical context for these world events. also disagree with the ‘hermit kingdom’ characterization of dprk but i recognize your perspective being from korea informs that and i don’t mean to invalidate it at all.

i’m from nigeria, and there (and many other west african countries too) the general view of first world western institutions like NATO, IMF & world bank is a lot more cynical/negative/distrustful because their past actions have repeatedly proven that while their ‘stated values’ might be of a moral commitment to a rules-based liberal order yadda yadda their actual real actions always reveal an ideological commitment to western hegemony over the whole world. this is how things like debt-trapping, using loans to demand rightward domestic policy changes in those countries, and the entire status quo of the CFA franc as a currency happen. so when i look at an organization like NATO, i tend not to have as charitable a view of it as westerners generally do, because to me it simply exists as another manifestation of this post-WWII western hegemony, not unlike the IMF and the world bank. we also can’t ignore the context of NATO’s creation, which was to contain communism, which it saw an existential threat to western hegemony. obviously the USSR doesn’t exist anymore, but NATO is still around because america still sees russia as a ‘great power’ that’s worth keeping in check (no different from how it views china, really, hence its heavy military presence in korea, japan, taiwan and the entire pacific ocean) and as a result a lot of its policies still rely on the same cold war logic as in the 20th century.

i highly recommend john mearsheimer’s lectures on this topic (most are available on youtube) as he goes into far more detail into the operational logic of NATO (and similar institutions) and speaks to the ideology that informs washington’s foreign policy priorities. it’s a very complex interwoven topic as you rightly point out, and to be clear i’m under no impression that putin’s claims of denazification are in any way truthful, neither do i view the invasion as warranted. however i do acknowledge and strongly oppose the very real rise of nazism and right wing operatives in ukraine, and we can’t ignore the part america played in emboldening the current government there, which has in turn emboldened those reactionary elements (most notably azov, but also more fringe groups like right sector). ukraine has been at war in donbass since 2014 precisely because of the anti-russian policy and legislation that the new government started introducing in those eastern regions of ukraine (that have significant russian & russian speaking minorities [not counting crimea, which is actually majority russian/russian-speaking, which held a 95% yes vote referendum to join russia shortly before it was annexed, and which russia already had a heavy previously-existing military presence in bc of its access to the sea]) which sparked the rise of separatist factions all over the region which russia of course supported. many were quashed by the AFU except those in donetsk and luhansk, because those regions had the most support from russia and were able to stave off ukraine militarily as well as gain popular support from the residents of those regions. that war went on for all of the rest of the 2010s and had finally reached a stalemate that had resulted in DPR & LPR gaining full control of those oblasts, and declaring independence, which putin obviously acknowledged.

so while you’re correct that putin views ukraine as fundamentally part of russia that should never have been allowed to become separate (he actually explicitly blames the korenizatsiya policy created by lenin and stalin [himself an ethnic minority georgian] for this) we can’t ignore the material reality that a lot of russians and russian-speakers live in ukraine and very recently saw their own safety & living standards undermined by a govt they view as tyrannical. and this isn’t even to posit that ukraine should be divided like most colonizers want to believe (drawing lines on maps doesn’t solve anybody’s problems) but rather that no matter how much the powers that be might wish it, a lot of these global conflicts don’t have open-and-shut moral protagonists and villains on either side, and the people who always come out the worst are the ordinary working classes whose lives are uprooted and destroyed forever.

a lot of neolib worldview hinges on a ‘flattening’ of the world into cowboys vs. indians; where every issue has good guys and bad guys and we always have to know who the bad guys are, better still if the bad guys are actually one bad guy we can lazily compare to voldemort or thanos, who just acted randomly and erratically because of some innate ‘evil’ and not because of complex decades-long historical factors that inform their own complex worldviews.

many many people believe (or want to believe) that putin just randomly woke up one morning and decided to invade ukraine because he’s just such an evil guy. even if we might not share the same exact assessment, the fact that this write-up and your previous one acknowledges so much of the complicity america & the west have when it comes to foreign intervention (and foreign escalation of civil conflicts, usually siding with whichever side exists in opposition to the ‘rogue state’) is massively refreshing and i’m glad you did it. i also hope you continue to on other topics in the future (hopefully ones not as bleak as a literal war).

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Hey, thanks for your super thoughtful reply! Part of me wishes I didn't have to break this up into multiple posts but as I kept peeling back layers, it actually got too long for a single email (lol, I didn't even know that was a possibility). I think if I was capable of being less long-winded and could consolidate all of my thoughts into a single post, it's probably be more apparent that we agree on the broad strokes, but diverge a bit on the details. (I think.) Your assessment of NATO/IMF/World Bank is absolutely fair and honestly spot on—At this point it feels like the US has done more to keep its foot on the neck of the Global South than even Britain and frankly anyone who *does* trust these organizations simply needs to wake up.

That being said, I am of the mind that being distrustful of western institutions shouldn't prohibit one from *also* being distrustful of non-western ones—we can of course rank them from worst to bad, but imo there is no such thing as a "good" global organization or "benevolent state". I think it's pretty safe to say that the USA's oversimplified framing of the world order is a big lie designed to sanitize its own misdeeds, but that doesn't mean that world powers outside of the current hegemony are telling the truth.

I have watched a couple of Mearsheimer's lectures and I'm sorry to say but I do not personally find him credible as he's been on the Koch payroll for many years now, and the framing of many of his arguments seems to reflect that. That's not to say that he hasn't made valid points, he certainly has, but I think someone like Yanis Varoufakis is much more effective at pointing out problems caused by The West without devolving into rhetoric that sounds borderline anti-humanist.

A lot of what you've mentioned about Crimea and the Eastern regions is how Russia officially frames these events—I'll be interested to hear what you think once I share some of my own research (which, I hope, will raise significant questions about how to best represent what's happened since 2014.) but one thing we are *100%* aligned on is this:

"(drawing lines on maps doesn’t solve anybody’s problems) but rather that no matter how much the powers that be might wish it, a lot of these global conflicts don’t have open-and-shut moral protagonists and villains on either side, and the people who always come out the worst are the ordinary working classes whose lives are uprooted and destroyed forever." 💯💯💯 (The West drawing lines on maps actually has created even worse or totally new problems in many parts of the world 😫)

It's definitely an unfortunate trend (especially for ppl in the west) to boil everything down to the most infinitesimal, digestible, mcu-style good vs. evil narrative and that is just... not how the world works. It's why I decided to start doing longer posts instead of just tweeting, even though I didn't expect anyone to actually be interested in my very un-credentialed opinions. 😂 I really appreciate you taking the time to read both posts so far and even leaving such a thoughtful reply. 🙏🏼

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Apr 29, 2022·edited Apr 29, 2022Liked by Jen Bartel

totally, it’s great cuz a lot of these finer details just aren’t allowed to even be discussed full stop cuz on twitter like if you don’t literally think putin is voldemort and all russians are death eaters or whatever then dem voters see you as a russian bot/troll farm op lol

that twitter as a platform relies so much on context collapse and engenders sensationalism cuz of its character limit and privileging of quotes/dunks has made it so i generally don’t participate in political discussions there anymore except amongst people who i know speak my own language i.e other marxists and left-leaning folks.

but they’re still convos worth having, and i always appreciate opportunities to talk about this stuff with people who don’t agree with 98% of my politics cuz it also makes sure i don’t become too echo chamber-ey (your point about mearsheimer, for example lol)

in short, it’s nice to see this stuff talked about in realistic terms, instead of the cursory good/bad snap judgments that twitter encourages. and i also don’t think an attitude of « staying out of politics » is healthy either so finding good outlets for those thoughts is something we should all consider doing 👍🏾

looking forward to the next part!

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Apr 30, 2022Liked by Jen Bartel

Wow, this was great. Another extremely informative and amazingly well written article. It still seems crazy how much has happened in a really short time frame. Great stuff!

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People who won’t diss Putin and his shtty assault on his neighbors want this world to stay horrible apparently

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It's challenging but important to combat online misinformation when it comes to current events and historical contexts. Thanks for writing and contributing.

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