Russia/Ukraine: My Attempt At A Balanced Perspective: Part 2

by Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D., Ph.D. June, 2022

I’ve been procrastinating on Integral World — reading all of Dillard’s continuous essays from a Russian perspective, Reynolds’ passionate disagreements in the Comments sections, Meyerhoff’s support of Dillard’s position, Visser’s support of Reynold’s position, etc. [1]. I’ve tried my best to maintain a balanced perspective giving careful consideration to the views of all these authors, but needless to say, this is an extremely challenging task to uphold [2]. My inclinations have been toward the realist perspective as described by Noam Chomsky [2], [3], which is consistent to a certain degree with Dillard’s and Meyerhoff’s perspectives [1]. But I have had my own disagreements with Dillard in some of his previous essays, in particular in regard to the atrocities and indiscriminate bombing that I attribute to Russia, where apparently Dillard has a more open mind about who is to blame for this [4]. However, in all fairness to Dillard, he has made some strong claims in one of his essays that Russia is winning the war — militarily, economically, and information-wise, he has stated that no-one on Integral World has countered his claims, and he has repeatedly asked that his claims be taken seriously by people who comment on his essays [5]. So let me respond to Dillard’s requests.

In most of his essays, Dillard has given extensive references to support his pro-Russia statements [1], [4], [5]. However, rather than make use of Dillard’s references in regard to his above claims of Russia winning the war, I decided to approach this fresh and see what I would come up with as I gradually learned more about these three dimensions of winning the war as time progressed. And I must admit that what I have learned is essentially consistent with what Dillard has conveyed. But it is not the kind of military winning that is dramatically clear and decisive. Rather, it is the kind of military victory that goes on and on in a continuous slogging out of death and destruction with no end in sight, neither side making a monumental decisive ending the war strike, though apparently Russia may be very gradually getting the upper hand [6]. But then just as it may look like Russia is getting closer to finally militarily winning the war, Ukraine may be ready to make use of the longer range more powerful defense missiles that the United States and the United Kingdom is supplying it with [7], which may keep the war going on and on for who knows how long. So is Dillard correct that Russia is militarily winning the war? Perhaps he is, but this does not at all mean that the war is going to end any time soon [8].

Is Russia winning the war economically? Once again I must admit that Dillard is making sense. A number of countries in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa are continuing to do business with Russia, most notably China and India [9], and although I think the economic sanctions have definitely hurt Russia [10], it does not appear that they have dealt anywhere near a fatal blow to Russia’s ability to survive economically [11]. And what Dillard contends about the West suffering economically far more than Russia is, appears to be fairly accurate, as it struck me that in order to try to reduce how furious Americans are about the increase in gas prices, United States President Joe Biden is going to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince who the United States Intelligence agency concluded was responsible for the gruesome murder of an American reporter [12]. So what happened to ethics and morality and that kind of thing? I suppose you could say it was “trumped” by economics, i.e., by the dire economic emergency that is resulting in escalating inflation, felt by Americans especially at the gas pumps. And then the idealist position is justifying the war largely on the basis of ethics and morality [3], [13]? Something is not adding up here for me — either we are focusing on ethics and morality or we are not. The bottom line is that the West is apparently getting tired of the economic sacrifices to continually support Ukraine, and once again I must admit that Dillard has a point [8].

I have previously written about my own reluctance to write candidly and openly about my views on Integral World after being attacked by Reynolds on the Comments section of one of my essays as being a pro-Russian Putin defender along the lines of Dillard, merely because I voiced my openness to the position that Ukraine joining NATO may have been a legitimate concern that Russia felt and I conveyed that I thought Dillard’s views should be taken seriously [14]. I was shocked at this condemnation, as I had taken Dillard to task in much of my essay over what I described above about my disagreements with him [4]. And now here I am again — this time supporting Dillard’s views even more concretely — although with significant disagreements as well. I welcome any and all respectful and rational comments from Integral World readers, but not ad hominem attacks, on myself or on Dillard or Meyerhoff.

What about who is winning the war information-wise? As Dillard concedes, Ukraine is certainly winning the information war in the United States and much of the West [15]. But in regard to the whole world, given the fact that India and China have not condemned Russia, Dillard once again has a point that the world as a whole has not bought the verdict that Russia is to blame for the war [9]. [15]. The percentage of people in the world who actually support Russia may not be as high as Dillard has conveyed, but I must concede that he is apparently correct in that at least over half the world is not blaming Russia for the war [9], [15]. And when it comes to Russia itself, yes Putin is extremely popular and the vast majority of Russians are supporting the war, regardless of the reasons for this support in terms of min-information, fear of reprisal for stating otherwise, etc. [9], [15].

Then there is the whole topic of how responsible the United States has been for its own multitude of horrendous invasions of other countries inclusive of what has been construed as war crimes. In this regard, I have found the information supplied by both Dillard and Meyerhoff to be compelling and tremendously disturbing [1]. Reynolds always does a good job in reminding us how awful Russia has been in turn in this regard [1], but it struck me how although Russia was considered as significantly “worse,” in the sense of more authoritarian and more corruption then Ukraine, Ukraine was pretty “bad” in its own right in these dimensions [16]. But I understand that regardless of how corrupt Ukraine’s democracy may be, regardless of whether or not Zelensky victimized Russian-speaking people in Ukraine, regardless of how prominent and murderous the neo-nazis in Ukraine may have been, regardless of how Putin wants to go back to the “good old days” of the Soviet Union and Peter the Great with Ukraine as part of Russia — giving in to Russia and letting them just take over the land of another country is a dangerous non-action to take that could lead to much bigger disasters in the future — which is the idealist position [1], [13], [17]. So the picture is very complex and no solutions to end the war are apparent at this time [8].

Since Russia is apparently making progress militarily, though it seems through its indiscriminate bombing without concern about the lives of civilians [18], it may be the case that there is less danger of Putin using nuclear weapons than I previously was afraid of [19]. So if the avoidance of nuclear war is no longer a primary reason to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, I suppose we need to focus on ethics and morality. Stopping the killing. Ukraine is right that it is not for any other country to dictate to Ukraine what it should do to end the war, such as give up part of its land, etc. But then again, I think that if Ukraine wants defensive weapons from other countries, then the countries who supply these weapons do have a right to make it contingent on actions to help end the war — such as any business transaction would entail. Ukraine knows that its only chance to hang in there and continue to be able to fight against Russia is through obtaining continuous weapons from the West. And the West, especially the United States, has thus far been extraordinarily willing to supply Ukraine with these weapons, with no expectations of anything in return. Perhaps it is time to consider expecting something in return? Perhaps it is time to consider requiring that Ukraine be willing to compromise more in exchange for these weapons? I know — ”compromise” means giving up land to Russia, and I understand the dangerous implications of doing this. But the alternative is also horrendous.

I have no easy answers here. I will say that I was enormously relieved when I returned from my 6 day retreat of no internet to learn that the powerful defensive missiles we were giving to Ukraine could fire between 50 and 100 miles, instead of the much greater number of miles that Ukraine requested and that we were considering [7], [20]. And this gift to Ukraine went along with Biden stating that these were for defensive purposes and not to attack Russia [7]. At least now there would not be the capability for Ukraine to fire these weapons beyond at worst Russia’s border, and not deep into Russia’s territory. Yes firing these missiles deep into Russia’s territory is the stuff that nuclear war and World War III is made of — just as instituting a no-fly zone is. And I certainly had reason to be afraid that Biden’s militant rhetoric could escalate a nuclear war, whether with Russia or China or both [4], [21].

So we are in a stalemate, but a stalemate is better than nuclear devastation. But as Meyerhoff has conveyed, in the meantime the war between Russia and Ukraine is accelerating world environmental catastrophe [22], and as Dillard has conveyed, the war between Russia and Ukraine is accelerating economic catastrophe [1]. [4], [5]. When all is said and done, if I am pushed to take a stand, once again I must go back to Chomsky [3]. There are no easy answers here, but reaching a peaceful settlement through diplomatic negotiations are what my inclinations are. In the meantime, strengthening Ukraine with defensive weapons to get the best deal that they can makes sense to me, but the harsh reality is that one way or the other, in addition to agreeing to not join NATO and most likely to not join the European Union, Ukraine is going to have to agree to give up some land, how much is too soon to be determined. And I don’t think Russia would attack a NATO country and risk the repercussions this would entail, so I don’t see Russia as trying to take over the world, as some people are concerned about. Russia taking over land from Ukraine is not a good thing, but I don’t think there is any way of preventing it, and minimizing the loss of life and the destruction of the environment and the economy all of the world is what I think a priority should be right now.

Notes/References

1) See all the Russia/Ukraine essays by these authors, as well as a few others including myself, at www.integralworld.net

2) See Elliot Benjamin (2022), Russia/Ukraine: My Attempt At a Balanced Perspective. www.integralworld.net/bejamin133.html

3) See Elliot Benjamin (2022), Ukraine/Russia: Realist Vs. Idealist. www.integralworld.net/benjamin135.html; see the following two Chomsky videos at
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb7AD49WIlY and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Z5sNAr8qI; and see a transcripted version of a third Chomsky interview at https://theintercept.com/2022/04/14/russia-ukraine-noam-chomsky-jeremy-scahill/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=The%20Intercept%20Newsletter

4) See Joseph Dillard (2022), Is Putin Red and the West Green? www.integralworld.net/dillard64.html

, Elliot Benjamin (2022), Ukraine, Russia, and Peace: A Response to Dillard Through the Perspective of Vanden Heuvel. www.integralworld.net/benjamin131.html, and see the exchange of comments between Dillard and myself on our various Russia/Ukraine essays [1].

5) See Joseph Dillard (2022), Why We Are Losing the War With Russia. www.integralworld.net/dillard69.html; and see Dillard’s comments on his essays in his various exchanges with Reynolds [1].

6) See the New York Times article by Marc Santora & Roger Cohen (2022), Momentum in Ukraine Is Shifting in Russia’s Favor. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/11/world/europe/russia-momentum-ukraine.html; and see John Leicester & Hanna Arhirova (2022), Russia Claims Advances in Ukraine Amid Fierce Fighting. https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-kyiv-moscow-411ca8f38524e0d2b120479acef4ad56; Christopher Miller (2022), “They Are Carpet-Bombing Us”: Ukrainian Troops Are Getting Pounded As They Await Heavy Weapons From the West. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/01/ukraine-war-russia-donbas-weapons-00036156; and Pavel Polityuk & Max Hunder (2022), Russia Takes Most of Sievierodonetsk City in Eastern Ukraine. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1605055/russia-takes-most-of-severodonetsk-city-in-eastern-ukraine

7) See Joseph R. Biden (2022), President Biden: What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/31/opinion/biden-ukraine-strategy.html; and Politico (2022), U.K. Seeks U.S. Approval to Send Rocket Systems to Ukraine. https://report.az/en/other-countries/uk-seeks-us-approval-to-send-rocket-systems-to-ukraine/

8) See Richard Haass (2022), A Ukraine Strategy For the Long Haul: The West Needs a Policy to Manage a War that Will Go On. https://report.az/en/other-countries/uk-seeks-us-approval-to-send-rocket-systems-to-ukraine/; and Colleen Barry & Yuras Karmanau (2022), Ukraine Fears a Long War Might Cause West to Lost Interest. https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-putin-zelenskyy-kyiv-politics-cd240ea4311723e369a5916137c31087

9) See Angela Stent (2022), The West Vs. the Rest: Welcome to the 21st Century Cold War. https://www.themandarin.com.au/188255-the-west-vs-the-rest-welcome-to-the-21st-century-cold-war/

10) See John Bacon & Jorge L. Ortiz (2022), War Will Cost Russia 15 Years of Economic Gains; UN Says “Global Cost-of-Living Crisis” Worsening: Live Updates. https://news.yahoo.com/elite-russian-regiment-routed-ukraine-125807501.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall

11) See for example Reuters (2022), Tasty Name But No Big Mac: Russia Opens Rebranded McDonald’s Restaurants. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/mcdonalds-russia-reopens-under-new-ownership-renamed-vkusno-tochka-2022-06-12/

12) See Natasha Bertrand & Alex Marquardt (2022), US Seeks Full Reset With Saudi Arabia, Effectively Moving On From the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi. https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/10/politics/us-saudi-relationship-reset-jamal-khashoggi/index.html

13) See Brad Reynolds’ many extended comments on the Integral World Russia/Ukraine essays by Dillard, Meyerhoff, and myself for a good illustration of the idealist perspective [1].

14) See my essay in [2] and the comments on the essay. As one might readily surmise, the Integral World commentator who accused me of being a Putin defender was Brad Reynolds.

15) See Daniel R. Depetris & Rajan Menon (2022), Opinion: The U.S. Can’t Force the Rest of the World to Support Ukraine. Here’s Why. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/05/25/ukraine-sidelines-regional-not-global-conflict-00034793; and Dina Smeltz & Lily Wojtowics (2022), Russians Think They’re Engaged in a Heroic Struggle With the West. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/04/14/russia-public-opinion-putin-ukraine/

16) See Frank Visser (2022), Is Putin the New Tsar? Stephne Kotkin on the Ukraine Crisis. www.integralworld.net/visser223.html

17) See Mark Episkopos (2022), Putin Invokes Peter the Great as Russia Prepares for Long War. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/putin-invokes-peter-great-russia-prepares-long-war-202961

18) See Mick Krever (2022), Amnesty Accuses Russia of War Crimes in Kharkiv. https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-06-13-22/h_affdc8832f51e9e0e717cceb8c293595; Lauren Frias (2022), 900 Bodies Have Been Discovered Thus Far in Mass Graves Surrounding Kyliv Zelenskyy Says. https://currently.att.yahoo.com/att/mass-grave-containing-900-bodies-195830439.html; and Arpan Jai, Joe Middleton, & Thomas Kingsley (2022), Ukraine News — Live: Russia Using Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Finland Says. ndependent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-war-russia-nuclear-threat-putin-b2101271.html

19) See Ajeet Kumar (2022), NATO Chief Doesn’t Foresee Any Russian Retaliating Against US Weapons Aid to Ukraine Advanced Weapons. https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/russia-ukraine-crisis/nato-chief-doesnt-foresee-any-russian-retaliation-against-us-weapons-aid-to-ukraine-articleshow.html

20) See Jim Sciutto, Natasha Bertrand, & Alex Marquardt (2022), US Preparing to Approve Advanced Long-Range rocket System for Ukraine as Russian TV Host Warns of Crossing a “Red Line.” https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/26/politics/us-long-range-rockets-ukraine-mlrs/index.html

21) See Brad Lendon (2022), China Blasts US “Bully,” Says It Will “Fight To The End” for Taiwan. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/china-blasts-us-bully-says-it-will-fight-to-the-end-for-taiwan/ar-AAYmPwi; and Michael Goodwin (2022), Joe Biden’s Loose Lips Could Sink Ships. https://nypost.com/2022/05/28/is-joe-biden-crazy-like-a-fox-or-just-crazy/

22) See Jeff Meyerhoff (2022), A Context for Survival: The US, Russia and Ukraine. www.integralworld.net/meyerhoff19.html

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Elliot Benjamin

Elliot Benjamin

Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, psychologist, mathematician, musician, and writer, with Ph.Ds in math and psychology. 4 published books, and over 200 articles