Ukraine: a Potemkin Village Kind of War

In his 2004 book on the 1914-18 European apocalypse, Cataclysm: the First World War as Political Tragedy, British historian David Stevenson states the war was “a cataclysm of a special kind, a man-made catastrophe produced by political acts” (from the “Introduction,” first paragraph).  Indeed, that is Stevenson’s thesis, that the Great War was a political tragedy of the first order of magnitude.  While Stevenson’s analysis perhaps over-emphasizes the role of the European political class, certainly terrible decision-making played a major part in both launching and then needlessly prolonging a war that wasted an estimated 10 million soldiering lives.  In the context of the current clash in Ukraine, Stevenson’s argument remains relevant.

Today, whether it’s Biden, Boris Johnson, Macron, Trudeau, or the EU’s Ursula von der “Crazy” (peripatetic Cypriot commentator Alex Christoforou’s coinage for von der Leyen), the Collective West’s reaction to Putin’s “Special Military Operation” has been a spectacular failure.  This really is a gang that can’t shoot straight unless, of course, they are shooting themselves in their Collective foot.  “Sanctions and Arms!” “Sanctions and Arms!” they all shouted with self-righteous indignation when Putin finally struck, as if “Sanctions and Arms!” would bring the Russian Bear to its knees, exposing Putin’s folly and crushing his regime…

Well, 3+ months into this horrific conflict, it appears that the TransAtlanticans’ policy of “Sanctions and Arms!” has proven ineffective, not to mention entirely delusional.  On the “Sanctions” front, this economic weapon has completely back-fired, with soaring fuel prices and open talk of looming food shortages — in the West!  Counter-intuitively, it seems as if Western leaders have declared war on their own citizens as much as the Russians.  Who could have foreseen that “Gas-for-Rubles” would become a catchphrase in 2022?

With reference to the massive “Arms!” transfers to AmericaNATOstan’s Ukrainian proxy forces:  How many more dead or surrendered Ukrainians will it take to show incontrovertibly both the cruelty and imbecility of this “More Weapons!” policy?  The mid-May mass surrender of the cornered Ukrainian troops in the Azovstal Steel Works — AzovStalingrad? — in Mariupol provides one clue; the current Russian rolling-up of the Donbass will be the next.  In other words:  if NATO wants to fight Russia in Ukraine, they are going to have to do it themselves.

The good news so far on this possible development is that the Death Star, or Pentagon, has no appetite for going “toe-to-toe with the Rooskie!” (Quote, if I recall it correctly, from General Buck “Bucky” Turdgeson in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove, although George C. Scott’s excitably nihilist character is actually advocating for fighting directly with “the Rooskie!” in the movie). In fact, the Pentagon has been far more sober in its assessments than either the US State Department or the American Congress (not to mention our rabid Blue-and-Yellow Press), which mindlessly voted $40 billion more for the “Ukrainian” war.

So, the Ukraine Flag imogee crowd continues to maintain its “Stand by Ukraine!” Potemkin Village idiot mentality.  Of course, the Western Corporate Press is still leading the daily Cheers and Rahs!” for Ukraine, painting a false narrative of constant Ukrainian victory — but only if we can get Zelensly a few more howitzers, tanks, planes, drones, Javelins, Harpoons (NATO boots-on-the-ground, perchance?), and bullets.  Oh, and maybe we can donate a Ouija board to President Comedian so he can summon back the “Ghost of Kyiv”?  That would truly clear the Ukrainian skies of the Russian invader this time, right?

The Potemkin Village: a Historical Snap Shot

“Potemkin spared no effort or expense in showcasing Russia’s power and resources.  He even surprised the Empress with a battalion of ‘Amazons’–100 Greek women dressed in crimson skirts and gold-trimmed jackets (spencers) topped by gold-spangled turbans with ostrich feathers.”  ((Catherine the Great: Life and Legend, John T. Alexander, 1989, p. 260.))

Many things are meant, or possibly indicated, by the phrase “Potemkin Village,” which is generally understood as a kind of decorative front overlaid upon a particularly squalid or sordid reality so as to deceive the viewer as to the true state of affairs.  Today, we might call it a form of “disinformation,” whereas in times past the term “deception” would have adequately described this phenomenon.

Roundabout 1775, Russian Empress Catherine the Second (aka “the Great,” who ruled Russia from 1762 to 1796, or rather a long run…) appointed her “flamboyant favorite,” courtier Grigory Potemkin, to the office of Governor-General over most of what is now known as “Ukraine.”  At that time, the newly acquired Russian imperial lands were known as “Novorossiya,” or “New Russia,” in accordance with a “new”-naming fad popular amongst the prevailing European imperial powers.  In 1787, to commemorate her 25th year upon the Muscovite throne, Catherine embarked upon a 6 month journey through Novorossiya to Crimea, an extravagant political vacation with Lots of FireWorks!

Legend has it that Potemkin conspired to erect fake villages staffed by Walt Disney Peasants in order to impress the Empress with touristic delight during her voyage down the Dnieper.  This story is generally considered to be a wild exaggeration, although obviously World leaders, even today, are typically not treated to the most derelict of places they visit; quite the contrary.  U2, or the half of U2 that recently played a dolled-up underground subway stop in Kiev (or Kyiv, and I have to ask the math-musical question here:  Does one half of U2=”U1″?) certainly got the “Catherine 2,” or “Potemkin,” treatment in the Ukrainian capital.

However, there is a wholly other layer of irony to the “Potemkin Village” myth, namely:  Potemkin quite literally founded several villages that would go on to become key cities in what is now — at least for the moment — known as Ukraine, including Nikolayev, Dnipro, and Kherson.  Kherson, of course, was the first large city that Russia captured, way back in March, to little fanfare.  The Zelensky-fawning Western Blue-and-Yellow Press was strictly printing stories of heroic Ukrainian resistance then, so Russia taking a major Black Sea Ukrainian littoral town didn’t make the cut, and especially didn’t fit the “Potemkin” Narrative of plucky little neo-Nazi infested Ukraine beating the Big Bad Bear.  But:  “What about Snake Island?”  What about, indeed?  Potemkin Island would be a good title for any documentary about this conflict, or even The Ghost of Potemkin Island

If the “Mainstream” were anywhere near the Reality Stream, many a red — and not merely “false” — flag should have been raised over the issue of “something rotten in the state of” — Ukraine.  A “Democracy” run by oligarchs with a President whose chief qualification for the job was having played the “President of Ukraine” in a comedy TV skit might have topped the list, especially after the “Trumpman Show” in the US.  Then there’s the bit about Trump’s successor, Joe “Bidenopolous” and Son’s wanton corruption in Ukraine during Obama’s reign:  What to make of that?  What to make of the Western-styled “Potemkin Village” of Democracy that is Ukraine?  How about some more “Sanctions!”, and surely more “Weapons!”

Truly, the propaganda scaffolding around this “Potemkin Village” Ukraine has been so preposterously poor that one wonders if the Covid-19 phenomenon had not only cooked, but then also eaten, the brains of the Western Elite Establishment?  Blinken blinks, absently; Nuland “Coup”-lands, hesitantly, as she describes Bio-Research Labs in Ukraine connected to the U$ under oath in a Senate hearing; and Jake Sullivan evokes an even paler shade of Jared Kushner every time he appears, which sometimes includes an MbS tantrum (although apparently pale Sullivan took Mohammed “Bone-saw” Salman’s tongue-lashing like a good boy…).

Clearly, there is a crisis of political leadership in the West, to the tune of:  These people are not fit to rule.  Instead of “isolating” Putin’s Russia as a harsh consequence for “Operation Z,” as they have all so imperiously claimed, these incompetent Western overlords have only managed to further isolate themselves from the rest of the World which everyone knows that they, the AmericaNATOstanis, view with absolute contempt.  Indeed, a mere modicum of respect for Russia and the Minsk Accords could have averted this catastrophic war that is destroying Ukraine.  In a very real-world sense, then, the Ukrainian war is certainly a “political tragedy.”

Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at Read other articles by Todd.