From independence, freedom and truth


Smoke and mirrors in Ukraine (I)

My readers, adults who seek the truth and think for themselves (and who therefore belong to an endangered species) will quickly understand that local wars such as the one that is unfortunately taking place in Ukraine generally respond to complex geostrategic interests that elude simplistic explanations.

Fernando del Pino Calvo Sotelo

March 4, 2022

My readers, adults who seek the truth and think for themselves (and who therefore belong to an endangered species) will quickly understand that local wars such as the one that is unfortunately taking place in Ukraine generally respond to complex geostrategic interests that elude simplistic explanations. Likewise, the establishment of Manichean categories (good versus evil) does not usually respond to the truth but to the propaganda of one side or the other, even more so in distant countries that few Spaniards would have been able to point out on a map just a month ago. Is it a confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy and freedom – which are certainly not synonymous – or are we once again faced with a struggle of more or less spurious global interests? The low level of education of our journalistic class and its lack of love for truth make it difficult to obtain reliable information to be able to answer this question.

The first casualty of war is truth, and the indirect confrontation between Russia and the US now taking place in Ukraine is no exception. Indeed, in any conflict the war propaganda is a very powerful weapon to achieve victory regardless of numerical superiority, because it contributes with essential factors, such as “the morale of victory, discipline and order, fighting spirit and the will to win”, to use the language of the Spanish Army Royal Ordinances. For this reason, “resolute and constant attention must always be paid to the psychological action of the enemy”.

The war propaganda seeks two objectives: to depersonalize and demonize the adversary so that his destruction is considered a moral good (contrary to what the conscience would dictate in normal circumstances) and to maintain always alive the hope in the final triumph to sustain the high morale, hiding or minimizing the own losses and exaggerating the victories while the opposite is done with those of the enemy (in order to demoralize him).

A clear example of propaganda is that in a few days the media have passed off images of video games and accidental explosions in China in 2015 as Russian bombings and have echoed, taking it for granted, an extravagant radio dialogue between a supposed Russian ship and a supposed group of Ukrainian soldiers defending an islet who, refusing to surrender, would have succumbed to the subsequent bombardment. The Ukrainian president himself announced that he would posthumously award a medal to these “heroes”. But there was a problem: it was a hoax. Shortly afterwards, both Russian[1] and Ukrainian[2] sources confirmed that the soldiers were not 13 but 82, that they had surrendered, had been taken prisoner and would be returned to their families.

Contrary to what we are led to believe, and without prejudice to the sympathy that the Ukrainian people obviously arise in us and the natural compassion towards those who suffer any war (always decided by the power junkies, whether in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Sudan or Yemen, that is, not only where the media decide to put the spotlight), a war in Ukraine should be quite alien to us in every way. However, the unanimous and incendiary propaganda campaign unleashed by the media, bordering on xenophobic hatred and lacking in dispassionate data or analysis, has provoked in our public opinion a Russophobic hysteria that has gone too far. After two years of covid, it would seem that the sign of the times is to drag by the horns of a dull man, devoid of critical thinking, to keep him in a permanent state of neurosis. How can we avoid these emotional reactions in a conflict about which there is a calamitous ignorance? Let us not forget that Spain is a hot-blooded country, prone to noble and quixotic feelings, which admires Numantine resistances and defends by default the weak against the strong, the attacked against the aggressor. Likewise, it is easy (albeit erroneous) to identify today’s Russia with the communist Soviet Union, whose tanks rolled tambour battant into Prague or Budapest to crush freedom. That the conservative Hungarian government – so viciously reviled – has good relations with today’s Russia is an indication that we are not facing the same reality.

I will try to shed some light on what is happening in Ukraine from a different perspective, that is, from a geostrategic point of view, since it is easy to get caught up in the details and lose the context.

The remote cause of the conflict

The remote cause of this conflict is the struggle for world hegemony that is being waged between the unipolarity that a West in frank decline wants to retain (in particular, the USA and the Anglo-Saxon world) and the emerging multipolarity that the East is demanding, more appropriate to the reality of the 21st century. If Europe was hegemonic in the 19th century and the USA in the 20th century, the East wants us to make room for them in the 21st century. In this regard, it is enlightening that at the UN Security Council meeting that attempted to condemn the Russian aggression, in addition to the obvious Russian veto, China and India – almost 40% of the planet’s population – abstained. We should not forget that Russia did not invade Ukraine until the closing of the Beijing Olympics, which would indicate a certain understanding with China. In that UN vote, by the way, the United Arab Emirates, a tiny state that two months earlier had abandoned the US for France in a lucrative contract for the purchase of 80 fighters[3], apparently because it refused to accept the geostrategic “annexed conditions” demanded by the Americans[4], also abstained. This anecdote highlights the decline of US hegemony, especially after the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 costly, destructive and sterile years.

The supporters of multipolarity want to change the status quo of a world designed after the Second World War by a hegemonic USA that then had a vast military and economic superiority: not only were they the only nuclear power, but they also had, for example, 105 operational aircraft carriers to project their strength around the world, 40 of which were large attack aircraft carriers (today the USA has 11 nuclear aircraft carriers, ten of the Nimitz class and one of the new Gerald Ford class). On the other hand, while US GDP was 40% of world GDP in 1960, today it is only 24%.

Likewise, the supporters of multipolarity look with astonishment and growing resentment at the double standards of the West. For example, the same people who today are tearing their hair out over the Russian invasion of Ukraine (which according to the United Nations has so far caused at least 227 civilian deaths[5]) caused nearly 70,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan[6] and 200,000 in Iraq[7]. Does human life have a different value depending on the color of one’s skin, religion or nationality? Ukrainian sources show us a photo with debris and a timely teddy bear and, without further verification, it is taken for granted that Russia has killed children in a bombing, but where was the criticism of the Western press when the US had to admit having killed 7 children and 3 civilians with a missile on the last day of its withdrawal from Afghanistan for mistaking their car for that of terrorists[8]? Similarly, those who rightly criticize the temporary Russian invasion as a flagrant breach of international law have so often violated that same law in recent decades that the argument makes anyone with a modicum of objectivity blush. Thus, the Russians do not forget the systematic bombing in 1999 of their ally Serbia by NATO without a declaration of war or a UN mandate. Missiles and bombs fell for 78 days in a row, destroying the country’s infrastructure and causing 500 civilian deaths[9]. What did the Western press do but applaud?

This double standard, considered by the East as an exercise in hypocrisy and cynicism, discredits and undermines the moral authority of the West. Where are the values of which we were once the cradle and the fortress? How can we criticize authoritarian regimes when during the epidemic we have applied in Europe authoritarian and sometimes illegal policies that are no different from those of the former? The US policy of defending “exceptionalism”, the basis of Western double standards, was defined by the arrogant words of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America: we are the indispensable nation, we stand tall and we see further than other countries[10]“. Thus, the most disturbing thing is that, by impudently breaking the international rules whose scrupulous compliance it demands from others, the West, led by the US, is fostering a world without rules for anyone, and therefore much more insecure, as we are seeing.


Ukraine has not been dealt a good hand. Sandwiched between Russia and Europe (as Mongolia is between Russia and China), it is a pawn in the hands of the US, Russia and its own ruling class, whose interests often diverge from those of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is a poor and corrupt country: its GDP per capita is lower than that of Botswana and Transparency International ranks it 122nd in the world in its Corruption Index, close to Mexico (Spain ranks 34th). To give you an idea, in 2021, 23% of citizens had to pay a “bribe” to officials to access public services[11]. Concerns about the existence of “deficiencies in the legal framework, widespread corruption and large parts of the economy dominated by inefficient state enterprises or by oligarchs” (in the words of the International Monetary Fund itself) justify the reluctance to its accession to the EU and have caused the IMF to paralyze in the past the sending of financial aid, among other reasons because of the liasons dangereuses of the current president, as highlighted by the Wall Street Journal[12] before Zelensky was canonized by the Western press. Ukraine has realities that are difficult for a European to understand. An anecdotal example is the fist fights between parliamentarians (in the Parliament itself), which the Washington Post described as a “tradition”[13]. Another example is the surreal way in which Zelensky came to power. An actor starring in an enormously successful comedy series in Ukraine, his character played a professor who was surprisingly elected president of the country in order to fight corruption. Zelensky took advantage of his popularity, created a party with the same name as the series (“Servant of the People”) and managed to sweep the elections in three months of virtual campaigning. Ukrainians voted for the actor believing that he would do what the character he embodied did, more or less as if the British Secret Service hired Roger Moore or Daniel Craig (the current 007) as a field agent or as if the CIA hired Tom Cruise for Mission Impossible. In my opinion, this symbolizes a country adrift and a people desperate because of the prevailing corruption and eager to find a messiah.

But how did we get into this war situation? Cui prodest scelus, is fecit”, said Seneca, that is: “To whom a crime profits, that one has committed it”. Who benefits from this war? In the second part of this article we will analyze who the contenders are, how this situation came about and what the way out might be. As you will see, the scenario is much more complex than it seems.


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