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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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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