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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Is Putin's invasion of Ukraine a war of genocide?

The term “genocide” has increasingly been used to describe Putin's war on Ukraine, particularly by the Ukrainians themselves. Is this a case of hyperbole, designed to draw attention to their struggle, or is it an accurate description of what Ukrainians are experiencing?

Mass grave found in Bucha (Credit: Ukrainian Foreign Ministry)
For many people genocide involves the wholesale massacre of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. While the “fog of war” prevents us from knowing, with any accuracy, just how many Ukrainians have been killed so far, it's certainly not yet in those orders of magnitude, and may even be less than the estimated ten thousand Russian military deaths. So, what possible basis exists for calling this a genocide now?

To answer this, we have to look at the definition of “genocide,” because it's not synonymous with “massacre” or “atrocity,” and involves more than just killing a lot of people. Oxford Languages defines genocide as “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.” This definition of genocide requires that the act meet two tests:

  1. The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group.
  2. With the aim of destroying that nation or group.
Hopefully, the number of Ukrainians Putin has killed remains in the low thousands. Even so, that should meet anybody's definition of “a large number of people,” and they are being killed—man, woman, child, combatant, and non-combatant alike, simply because they live in Ukraine. I think the conditions of part one is well and tragically met.

The requirement of part two, is a bit stickier, involving, as it does, a determination of motive. We have to answer the question: What's the real reason Putin is waging this war?

According to Putin, and his supporters, his main concerns with Ukraine are:
  1. NATO expansion, and the prospect that Ukraine might join NATO in the future.
  2. Nazis are in control of Ukraine, and committing genocide against the Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine. 
Seeing, as yet, no peaceful resolution to these concerns, Putin saw no other option open to him but to launch a special military operation to carry out the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine. 

With regards to No. 1, Ukraine's possible NATO membership, given that NATO has yet to offer Ukraine a Membership Action Plan, a road-map to membership—the first concrete step, 14 years after that membership was first suggested, one might ask Putin, “What's the hurry?”  In any case, Putin's invasion has made his NATO problem worst in a number of ways that could have been easily predicted.

As for No. 2, while there are neo-Nazis and right-wing fanatics in Ukraine, and on both sides of the conflict in Donbass, and in Russia, the US, and much of Europe; they are a long way from running Ukraine. The ultra-nationalist Svoboda party got 2.15% of the vote in the 2019 Parliamentary election, and failed to win even a single seat. The infamous Azov Brigade is maybe 1% of the Ukrainian armed forces. Besides, that Jew is certainly no Nazi! 

Putin's encirclement and bombardment of the largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol expose the sheer brutality of the cynical joke that he was coming to save them from genocide. Also why does Ukraine need to be “demilitarized” even after it's been “denazified,” unless it has lost a national right to self-defense for some reason? This points to a darker motive. Denazification can be the stated reason for liquidating anybody and any number of Ukrainians, simply by labeling them and then “disposing” of them accordingly. 

In short, the motives promoted by Putin and his fanboys as the causes for this war don't compute. For greater clarity, we must examine first, the methods used in his war, and finally Putin's views on the nation of Ukraine, and its right to exist.

As we proceed, it's important to remember that actions that further “the aim of destroying that nation” aren't limited to killing large numbers of that nation. In this regard, the more detailed definition of genocide from the United Nations' Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is useful. In Article II, it defines genocide as follows:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

Then it gives five examples. Let's see how many apply to Putin's war against Ukraine:

a.  Killing members of the group;

Already covered. That's one.

b.  Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

His wanton and unprovoked attacks on Ukrainian civilians with the likes of cluster bombs and white phosphorus can be guaranteed to cause serious bodily and mental harm to Ukrainians. That's two.

c.  Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

Putin's methods of surrounding Ukrainian cities, cutting off power, food, and water, and not allowing people to leave while shelling them into oblivion fulfills that description. Putin's war machine in Ukraine reminds me of that alien spacecraft in “Independence Day” obliterating city after city in its attempt to destroy humanity, or Darth Vader's planet destroying Death Star.  Both share with Putin's war genocidal intent and hubris, and like those fictitious villains, he too will ultimately fail. Three is well covered.

d.  Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

If you are reading this, I'm going to assume you've already heard about Putin's bombing of a maternity hospital, and a theater full of kids that was clearly marked as such. Add to this his bombing of some 23 hospitals or healthcare facilities, and 330 schools. Putin's war on Ukrainian children makes it four.

e.  Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Ukraine has claimed that 400,000 Ukrainians are being held in “ex-filtration camps,” and forcibly deported to various places in Russia. We know that thousands of children are among them. 

So, all of the UN's five examples of genocide can be found in the conduct of Putin's war in Ukraine. In addition to these, I would like to summit for your consideration a few more examples of genocide that I think can be seen in Putin's war on Ukraine:

f. Forcibly transferring territory from the nation to others.

This can already be seen in 2014 in his annexation of Crimea, after an illegal referendum under conditions of Russian military occupation. It was furthered since then by supplying fighters and weapons to a struggle to take the Donbass region away from Ukraine, and especially by his 21 February 2022 recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) as independent countries. It is being advanced even today by Russian officials who are claiming they will never leave Mariupol, if and when, they get their hands on this Alamo of Ukraine.

g. Destroying the state structure of another nation, even at the lowest level.

Perhaps you've heard about Putin's perchance for kidnapping Ukrainian mayors and replacing them with his people once he's captured a town? The Russian army is also taking down the Ukrainian flag in areas it occupies.

h. Willfully destroying a nation's cultural treasures and historic sites—symbols of the nation's independent development and existence.
Putin's army is going out of its way to destroy Ukrainian heritage & cultural sites. 15 March, Al Jazeera asks "How is war destroying Ukraine’s cultural heritage?":

Russia’s war on Ukraine has killed hundreds of people and displaced over a million more. And as Russian forces move further into the country they are also destroying parts of Ukraine’s cultural heritage – tactics common to war.

Last week the UN cultural agency released a statement saying it is gravely concerned about the destruction of Ukrainian art and history..

Putin is going after symbols of Ukraine's independence because his intention is to erase its independence.   

i. The mass rape of women and girls in the nation.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russian soldiers occupying Kherson have been raping and killing women, according to Newsweek and Reuters. Ukrainian MPs have made similar claims of “Russian forces are raping and hanging women who are unable to escape their savage invasion.”

That literal rape should play a significant role in the way Russian soldiers interact with Ukrainian civilians should surprise no one, given how closely Putin's relationship with Ukraine has mimicked that of an abusive spouse. In a Ms. Magazine article titled "Rape Rhetoric and Russia’s War on Ukraine," Bonnie Stable comments on this, saying:

This playbook of bullying and domination is well known to those who study sexual and interpersonal violence, with parallels both implicit and explicit. 

As if to even more explicitly make the point to Ukrainians that he sees them as in an old fashion marriage with Russia, where he's the boss, and there is no divorce, Putin made reference to a crude Russian joke about marital rape weeks before he invaded, telling them, “It’s your duty, my beauty.”

As we can see, Putin's war on Ukraine meets, not only the simple dictionary definition of genocide, but also the more detailed one used by the UN, and then some. But some might still argue that these are just collateral byproducts of Putin's brutal methods of war, and they don't rise to the level of genocide because he doesn't want to do away with Ukraine as an independent nation. To address that view, we must look at what Putin has said about Ukraine, and its right to exist, in the run up to his war.

Putin's ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“, published 227 days before he invaded Ukraine, tells us a lot about what he thinks of it.  He begins by telling us “[T]hat Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole.” This begs the question: Is that single whole Ukraine or Russia? And I think we know his answer to that.

He then goes on to tell us, “[M]odern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era. We know and remember well that it was shaped – for a significant part – on the lands of historical Russia.” Putin claims Ukraine was created by the Bolsheviks in 1922, so one could see why he would be keen to destroy anything that says otherwise.

Of course, Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn't create Ukraine when they broke up the czar's “prison house of nations,” but they did recognize Ukraine's right to form an independent republic. Putin doesn't see it that way. He complains that they were “so generous in drawing borders and bestowing territorial gifts.” He doesn't understand why “the Bolsheviks' efforts to detach from Russia its historical territories are not considered a crime.” He adds “One fact is crystal clear: Russia was robbed, indeed.” 

Putin also thinks that all the former Soviet Republics, not just Ukraine, owe Russia territory, and makes this demand: “[T]he republics that were founders of the Union, having denounced the 1922 Union Treaty, must return to the boundaries they had had before joining the Soviet Union.”

Of the various national minorities that made up both the Russian Empire and the USSR that followed it, he asks, “[W]hat difference does it make who people consider themselves to be – Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians,” when they are all part of the “great common Motherland" ?  Then Putin goes on to make that most terrible threat made by an abusive husband when the object of his “affection” threatens to leave:

[W]e will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia. And to those who will undertake such an attempt, I would like to say that this way they will destroy their own country.

In the case of an abusive marriage, there is sometimes a threat like this that is ultimately carried out by an act of murder. In the case of a former colonial possession bent on independence, Putin's remedy is war and genocide. He ends this piece by telling us that an independent Ukraine is simply impossible:

I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia....For we are one people.

Putin repeats these themes again in his 21 February address just days before the invasion. In it he tells us, “Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” and “Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land [Ukraine] have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians.”  

He asserts again that "modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia," and complains "Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russia – by separating, severing what is historically Russian land...Let me repeat that these territories were transferred along with the population of what was historically Russia.” Putin calls it the “outright pillage of Russia.” Even after his invasion was in full swing with him slaughtering Ukrainian civilians, Putin insisted Ukrainians and Russians are “one people,” and any Ukrainians who disagree are “threatened and brainwashed.”

From this brief survey of Putin's writing and statements about Ukraine, it's clear that he thinks Ukraine has no right to an independent existence. He believes its people, resources, and land were stolen from Russia by the communists, and he is on a mission to fix that. His end game is the liquidation of Ukraine as an independent country and the return of its people, resources, and land to Russia. This explains why he is waging this war with genocidal methods. His end game is genocide.

Clay Claiborne

26 February 2022

See also: Vlad on Vlad: How Putin's views on Lenin shaped his decision to invade Ukraine



  1. Clay, can you identify any other examples of "genocide", for example, the US attempted and nearly successful extermination of the American Indian, the US war on Filipino civilians during the Spanish American War, fire-bombing the wooden houses of Japan capped by two nuclear bombs; 3 million Koreans killed in US scorched earth (back into the stone age) campaign; 3 million Vietnamese killed and villages such as My Lai wiped out; multiple US wars on brown people in the Middle East and Africa, from Sudan, Mali, Somalia, Libya to Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions. And in addition to its bio labs in Wuhan, China, DARPA also has bio labs in Ukraine, focusing on development of a virus to target a specific population demographic - the Slavs, that is, Russia.

  2. Jerry,

    While I have written about almost every atrocity you mention in this blog at one time or another, this is no time to distract from Putin's genocide, which is happening right now, with "What about this & what about that"?

    I certainly have no truck for those still spreading Putin's propaganda in support of his genocide, like his lie about bio-weapons labs in Ukraine.

    Put a sock in it.