Review of Why did Russia invade Ukraine by Bill Weinberg, illustrated by Seth Tobocman and Tamara Tornado and published online by CounterVortex
This excellent explainer in the style of a graphic novel opens with an image of the now familiar lone figure of Putin sitting at one end of a very long table. He is pushing a toy Russian tank towards a vista of destroyed apartment buildings. However, rather than focus on the progress (or lack of) Russian’s offensive, we are taken back in time, initially to the Maidan (Revolution of Dignity), a popular uprising in protest at the corruption of Yanukovich, who was involved in an undemocratic presidential power grab, backed by the Kremlin. Another frame takes us further back in history to Putin’s likely obsession with Pan-Slavic nationalism.
The book tackles head-on Putin’s false assertions that Ukraine is in the grip of Nazis, notwithstanding the problematic cult around Stepan Bandera, a now discredited figure. The emergence and current status of the Azov Brigade is also contextualised; the Ukrainian far-right is in fact less powerful than in countries such as France, Germany and Sweden, with only one Svoboda MP currently in the Rada (parliament).
The NATO issue is also explored. Ukraine pledged to remain permanently neutral upon independence in 1991, turning over all Soviet nuclear weapons to Russia as part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. However, the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the Russian-backed separatist movement in the Donbas shifted the security axis with the result that NATO seemed a good solution. Certainly, that’s the feeling in Finland and Sweden, demonstrating that Putin has himself increased NATO’s sphere of influence. Meanwhile, in the same frame, Russia’s little-known CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) is seen to have encircled more than half of Ukraine.
Human rights abuses in the Donbas (committed by both sides) are acknowledged although this is overshadowed by the atrocities committed in places like Bucha since Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Useful footnotes add further information. Finally, a list of charity websites is given for those wishing to donate.
You can find the online book here.