Not Even Botherign With Bothsiderism Anymore?

Wow. Just. Wow.

I know that the internet discussions are years being infested by pro-Russian trolls who are doing their best to disrupt any discourse, but I did not expect this. I have probably missed something, but I was taken completely by surprise when a long-time commenter on FtB went full fascist apologia. And these comments were the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and I have to respond:

…According to the Russian General staff and Putin personally (assuming the subtitling was correct) there are no conscripts in Ukraine…

…They are doing their damnedest to keep civilian casualties and infrastructure damage to a minimum…

…Ukraine has lost but a lot of innocent Ukrainian citizens and soldiers and Russian soldiers will die because Kiev/Zelenski will not or can not surrender…

So first (paragraph) thing first – why should anyone believe anything that Russia’s top brass are saying at this point? One does not need to go too far back to demonstrate that they are absolutely unashamedly lying about anything with a straight face. These are their statements as they recently evolved:

  1. There are no significant troops gathering on the Ukrainian border with Russia for an invasion, saying otherwise is just western propaganda.
  2. Ok, there are troops, but they are there only for exercises, they are not combat-ready, saying otherwise is just western propaganda.
  3. We are pulling the troops back inland, we are not preparing for a full-scale invasion, saying otherwise is just western propaganda.
  4. OK, we did not pull the troops back inland, but it is not a war or invasion, it is just a peacekeeping mission.
  5. OK, our non-invading troops have met some resistance, but there are no casualties whatsoever.
  6. OK, there are some casualties, but only a few hundred, nothing serious.

And I could go on much further with the blatant lies. There are even videos where Russian diplomats lie even when confronted with actual evidence of their lies.

These things are not a matter of opinion, these are facts on public record over just a few recent weeks. I mean, how fucking broken must your moral compass and your reasoning capabilities be to believe anything that Putin and his stooges say at this point? Sure, they might say the truth occasionally, just like a broken clock shows the right time twice a day.

I am sure that the Ukrainian side also lies for propaganda and after the war ends, if there still are historians, it will take them a lot of work to untangle where the actual truth lies. But right now any Russian in a position of power in the current regime is so trustworthy that when they wish you a “Good Morning” you should assume it’s night until proven otherwise with independent evidence.

The second paragraph flies in the face of actual pictorial and video evidence of residential areas being deliberately shelled and bombed. Further, I have a friend who worked with unguided earth-to-earth rocket launchers similar to the BM-30 Смерч that Russians are using in Kyiv. No matter what the current Russian propaganda says, those are not precision weapons for a precision striking of military targets, especially not in urban warfare. Those are scorched-earth weapons designed to stomp an area into nothing but craters and rubble. Using them on a military airport or convoy or some barracks in the countryside could be legitimate military use (as far as the word legitimate can be applied). Using them in a crowded city is a deliberate war crime intended to kill and terrorize civilians.

Sure, Russians say otherwise, but if anyone is inclined to believe them, I refer back to the first point.

Now for the last paragraph which actually got my blood boiling.

I do not like using rape in analogies because I have seen it used by dudebros to trivialize issues they deem unimportant and to trivialize rape at the same time, but in this particular case, I think the analogy is apt – saying this is analogous to blaming a rape victim for injuries because they did not submit to the rapist without a fight.

So let me stress this point – Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are not dying because Zelenskyy will not or cannot surrender, they are dying because Putin invaded Ukraine and is too power-hungry, too arrogant, and too proud to stop. In any conflict, it is the assailant who bears all the moral responsibility for damages incurred on the assaulted, never the other way around.

Further, this stinks of “ifonlysm“. The current conflict shows a striking resemblance to what has happened just before WW2, so we can actually look at what might have happened ifonly Ukraine gave Luhansk and Donetsk to Russia willingly and ifonly Zelensky went into exile and left Putin to install back his puppet Yanukovich. So let us do it.

The Sudeten Germans did face some discrimination in Czechoslovakia, there is absolutely no doubt about it. It could be argued that it was less than the discrimination Czechs and Slovaks faced in the former Austria-Hungary, but it was still discrimination and the Sudeten Germans did not like it. Solving such societal issues takes time and patience, with the occasional strike or civil disobedience thrown into the mix to wake politicians from their stupor and complacency, but they can be solved peacefully as long as you do not believe in quick fixes, which do not exist.

Hitler’s Germany did however offer a quick fix. With his guidance, instead of working to reach mutual agreements on a way to equality, the SdP fomented animosity between Germans and Czechs and always escalated demands to a level they knew cannot be reasonably met. At first, SdP lied about their connection with the Nazis. Then they lied about their intent to secede Sudeten from Czechoslovakia. Then they lied about receiving military support from Germany and forming paramilitary Sudetendeutsches Freikorps. Then they lied about said paramilitary performing terrorist actions within Czechoslovakia, intentionally provoking a forceful response from the Czechoslovakian government.

And then international powers that be decided to give them what they said they wanted and without consulting the Czechoslovakian government, they gave Sudeten to Germany. Not many people actually know that this was immediately followed by the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps actually escalating, not stopping, the violence. Most people probably do know that this did not stop Hitler from eventually annexing all of Czechoslovakia, directly governing Bohemia, and installing a puppet fascist regime in Slovakia, killing and enslaving scores of thousands of innocent civilians even when they did not even try and put up a fight.

This is because when a tyrant says they want this or that or they will have to resort to violence, they are always lying. Their stated goals are only seeking plausible deniability, a fig-leaf casus belli in order to expand their power. Violence is the goal because being able to inflict it without consequences demonstrates the tyrants’ power. And once they think they can get away with it, they stop bothering even with that pretense.

So no, ifonly Zelenskyy or Ukraine did or did not do this or that would probably have very little impact on what Putin would do. Ukrainian people were not given a choice between forceful invasion and peaceful lives, they were given a choice between forceful invasion and submitting to being second-class citizens licking Putin’s boot while it is crushing their necks nevertheless. Blaming them for putting up a fight is blaming the victim, pure and simple.


  1. flex says

    Yeah, I saw that comment and it was the second claim which floored me. There is, and has been for days, clear evidence that Russian troops are targeting non-military facilities; schools, hospitals, churches, in areas where there are no military targets. That’s a easily verifiable factual claim which is absolutely wrong. These attacks are not one-off’s by prankish troops. If the Russian strategy was to avoid civilian targets, these events would have stopped almost as soon as they were known. Instead, the destruction of non-military targets is increasing.

    The third claim is harder to argue against because it’s an argument against a hypothetical. The hypothetical being that if Ukraine had simply given up immediately less people would die and less destruction would occur. It may have been true, even against all historical precedent. But it is unknown hypothetical, and will always remain unknown because it didn’t happen. It’s like arguing that If I hadn’t eaten the cake yesterday, you could have some today.

    It is also true that rape victims may be less injured if they don’t resist (your analogy is apt), but it’s not assured. Passive rape victims can be beaten, or killed, at the whim of the attacker. Passivity does not confer protection. Further, whether the victim chooses to resist or not does not, in any way mitigate, legitimize, or shift the guilt of the rape. An attacker being scratched while raping a victim does not justify the attacker using greater force, and doing greater harm, than they originally thought they would. The attacker warning the victim that they are prepared to use force does not shift the blame to the victim for resisting.

  2. Tethys says

    Ugh, I just had to go check it again. Far too early in the morning for rage. The troll is blatant.

    I will formulate a response to the bothsiders eventually. The iron curtain was not the first time that Russia destroyed Ukraine. Long before that, there existed the Pale of Settlement.
    Chișinău in Moldova was the site of the first pogrom, long before WWI. It too was fueled by lies and ethnic nationalism. It eventually resulted in the Russian revolution, which was won by the bloodiest red faction. I wonder how many Americans are even aware of these historical events? It’s politics and toxic masculinity all the way down AFAICT.

  3. Allison says

    While I would agree that the USA government has also engaged in BS of this type (though perhaps not of this order) when it wants to conquer a country (viz Iraq), it seems to me that this should make one even more skeptical of Russian government claims in this instance, rather than less. The lesson in both cases is that when people are intent on doing something they know is immoral, they lie, shamelessly. One needs to look at a variety of more or less independent sources and judge accordingly.

    IM-not-at-all-HO, the evidence is very strong that the accusations made against Russia (well, the people who run things there) are not only true, but the reality may well be even worse — I have a rule of thumb which says that the reality is always worse than the worst things you hear about it.

    FWIW, I was saying the same thing about the USA invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. But evil on one side is not made any less evil by someone on the other side doing the same.

  4. raven says

    Long before that, there existed the Pale of Settlement.

    You don’t have to go that far back.

    During Stalin’s famine in the 1930’s, an estimated 3.5 million Ukrainians died.

    In 1932–1933, a famine known as the Holodomor killed 3.3–3.9 million people in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, included in a total of 5.5–8.7 million killed by the broader Soviet famine of 1932–1933. At least 3.3 million ethnic Ukrainians died as a result of the famine in the Soviet Union.
    Areas affected: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic

    Holodomor genocide question -- Wikipedia

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Odd -- I read that comment but couldn’t remember just where or by whom, so did a search for key phrases -- and this post was all that DuckDuckGo (based on Bing) found.

  6. Tethys says


    You don’t have to go that far back.
    During Stalin’s famine in the 1930’s, an estimated 3.5 million Ukrainians died.

    Yes, thats the second time Russia annexed Ukraine. It thrived under Katherine because of my German ancestors ability to grow wheat to feed the populace. We were evicted from our settlements after over a century, and mostly moved to America. The Germans from Russia aren’t well known within the US, but we had a front row seat to the death of imperial Russia and the rise of fascist red Russia.

  7. says

    Allison #3

    …it seems to me that this should make one even more skeptical of Russian government claims in this instance, rather than less.

    Bingo. This isn’t a logic puzzle where one always lies and the other always tells the truth. It’s entirely possible that they’re both lying.

    My own country, Denmark, has just announced a vote on our military exception within the EU. We may soon be part of an EU army. What that means in practice… who knows? It seems to me that this is being rushed through by the people who always wanted it, regardless of the current situation.
    So, who do I trust? The ones who tell me the common EU military is totally only for defense an they would never? Or the people who tell me it’s unnecessary because Putin is such a nice guy and he would never? I’m going to go ahead and distrust both.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Charly @ # 6: … that is not a comment, but citations from three comments…

    I eventually confirmed the poster’s identity by finding one à la Stderr, but still fell bemused that none of them made it into a search engine index while this post did. Do PZ & Marcus run some sort of googleblocker that Affinity doesn’t?

  9. Andrew Dalke says

    #7@Tethys, my g’grandfather (according to family lore) was one of those Germans. They were Mennonites in Russia who migrated to North America in 1874, when he was about 5. Based on those details, I assume they were from the Molotschna Colony, now Molochansk.

  10. Tethys says

    Andrew Dahlke

    There were many different flavors of German settlements, depending on their particular religion, when they immigrated, and their regional dialects. When their leases were terminated they moved en masse to the Midwest US and Canada. Dahlke is a Low German name, which probably originated in West Prussia before fleeing due to the Franco-Prussian war. I still have one living great aunt on my Mennonite branch who got trapped in Russia after the iron curtain fell. I should definitely interview her about her experience getting out of Soviet Russia as a young woman.

    If you have any interest in researching your genealogy, try this site.

  11. Kreator P says

    You wouldn’t believe just how much of Putin’s support outside of Russia comes from pure reflexive dislike of the US, however justified that reflex would be in a different context. The enemy of the enemy is my friend, basically. For example, at the website of a left-leaning newspaper from my country, I read a comment by someone actually admitting that they were pro-Putin just to spite the pro-Ukraine commentariat of a rival, right-wing newspaper. And if by any chance you didn’t think there couldn’t be any comments viler than jrkrideau’s out there, you wouldn’t believe some of the other stuff that I’ve read in that same website… which by the way has lately been publishing articles romanticizing Russian history and parroting Putin’s lies wholesale with pure, unadulterated faith. That second opinion piece actually contains a phrase which I almost couldn’t believe was real when I read it: no one with [enough brains] could doubt that Zelensky is a coupist willing to turn Ukraine into a neo-nazi Mecca. The newspaper did publish other more moderate and reasonable takes… only for those to be harshly criticized by the commenters.

    So, what are all these people saying, anyway? That the ends justify the means. That Putin is fighting fascists who cannot be reasoned or negotiated with, and as such they can only be exterminated. That NATO and NATO only is to blame. Or the most appalling and ridiculous of them all, which I don’t remember where I found: that Putin can’t be that bad a dude because he saved millions of people around the world with the Sputnik V vaccine, and the amount of people killed in Ukraine was too little compared to that.

    Oh, by the way, most of these people come from the radical wing of the political party currently in power, which has been courting Putin for a while now and thus could only afford to offer the most tepid of condemnations when this whole disaster started. They are a minority but they cannot be discounted: According to a recent poll whose accuracy I can’t confirm, about one third of my country’s population thinks that Putin was justified in starting this war.

  12. Andrew Dalke says

    Thank you for the comment Tethys. It was my grandfather, as I recall, who ‘got the H out of’ the name, as my father would joke. I know the general outline of Germans in Ukraine, mostly due to family history, though it was also briefly discussed in my high school European history class.

    Without a more personal connection, I’m not interested in researching that more. We have few details as my g’grandfather left the US, and his wife and 8 kids, to Canada, where at the age of 38 he married my 16 y.o. g’grandmother -- she did not know he was a secret bigamist. He took to the bottle and beat the family. After his death, she remarried the man my g’pa called “Dad”. No cultural legacy was passed on through my g’grandfather, and this summary is the only story I know about him. It’s really hard to care about tracking down where in Ukraine a long dead piece of shit was born.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    The only Germans near the Grigjanis ancestral lands (a small farm south of Daugavpils, Latvia) were the family of a Baltic German baron. The Engelhardts, I believe.

  14. says

    YEah, if only people didn’t fight back.
    This war is ugly, and yeah, Russia is doing its best to make it even more so. Shelling maternity hospitals, mining roads of promised escape routes. I think it’s clear that they’re trying to break the Ukrainian resistance by making them surrender in order to avoid more casualties because it’s clear as daylight that Putin and his regime don’t give a fuck and hey, look, they got their staunch allies in the west defending that tactic.

    Me, I’m currently puzzling about how we’ll deal with the kids that are bound to arrive at school, because sure as hell the ministry will wait until there’s a few hundred kids and then say “who could have told”.

  15. Jazzlet says

    WMDKitty — Survivor he’s still at it in the comments on PZ’s “Seizing territory isn’t winning the war” post.

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