Craig Murray: Mea Culpa on Ukraine

The same powers who fund and arm Ukraine fund and arm genocide by a racial supremacist Israel. My belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.

Ceremony in Kiev marking the ninth anniversary of the National Guard of Ukraine,  March 2023. (President of Ukraine)

By Craig Murray

The genocide in Gaza – or more precisely the major NATO powers’ active and practical support for the genocide in Gaza – has forced me to re-evaluate my views on Ukraine in a manner more sympathetic to the Russian narrative.

In particular, I was complacent in my dismissive attitude to the argument that the Western powers would back ethnic cleansing and massacre in the Donbass by forces including some motivated by Nazi ideology.

The same powers who are funding and arming Ukraine are funding and arming a genocide by racial supremacist Israeli forces in Gaza. It is beyond argument that my belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.

I apologise.

This does not mean that I was wrong to call the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian state illegal. I am afraid it was. You see, the law is the law. It has only a tenuous connection to either morality or justice. A thing can be justified and morally right, but still illegal.

The proof of this is that we have an entire legal structure governing transactions which is designed to achieve massive concentration of wealth. In consequence, the world is predicted to have its first trillionaires inside the next five years, while millions of children go hungry.

That is plainly immoral. It is plainly unjust. But it is not only legal, it is the purpose of the system of law.

I am, however, content that the “Right to Protect” doctrine has not become accepted in international law, because it is in general application neo-imperialist.

It was developed by the Blair government initially to justify NATO bombing of Serbia and the British re-occupation of Sierra Leone, and was used by Hillary Clinton to justify the destruction of Libya on the basis of lies about an imminent massacre in Benghazi. We should be wary of the doctrine.

(That is the major theme of my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo).

The causes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are plain. Alarm at NATO expansionism and forward positioning of aggressive military assets encircling Russia. The Ukrainian coup of 2014. Exasperation at Ukrainian bad faith and the ignoring of the Minsk accords. The continuing death toll from shelling of Russian speakers in the Donbass.

The suppression of the Russian language, of Russian Orthodox religion and of the main pro-Russian opposition political party in Ukraine are simple facts.

These I have always acknowledged: until I saw the positive enthusiasm of leaders of the Western states for massacre in Gaza, I was not convinced they could not have been addressed by diplomacy and negotiation.

I now have to reassess that view in the light of new information, and I now think Putin was justified in the invasion.

It is not that any of the arguments are new. It is simply that before I did not believe that the West would sponsor mass ethnic cleansing and genocidal attack on the Donbass by extreme Ukrainian nationalist-led, Western-armed forces.

I thought the “West” was more civilised than that. I now have to face the fact that I was wrong about the character of the NATO powers.

The alternative to Putin’s action probably was indeed massacre and ethnic cleansing.

The urgent need now is for negotiation to put an end to the war. On that my position has not changed. The war is a disaster for the people of Europe. The American destruction of Nord Stream has devastated the German economy and resulted in huge energy price increases for consumers all across Europe, including the U.K. There was a step jump in food inflation which has not been pulled back.

The continuation of the war will of course prime the pump of the military-industrial complex. Massive defence spending is the most efficient way to ensure kickbacks to the political class who control the flow of state funds, through both legal and illegal forms of corrupt reward to politicians.

As Julian Assange said, the object is not to win wars: the object is forever wars, to keep the funds flowing.

April 9, 2022: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes U.K. Prime Minister on walk around Kiev. (President of Ukraine)

The truth is that the longer the war persists, the less generous Russia will be over returning occupied territory to Ukraine. The deal which was torpedoed by the West nearly two years ago (and in truth the U.S. played more of a role than Boris Johnson – I was actually there in Turkey) ceded only Crimea to Russia, with a Minsk plus deal for the Donbass which would have remained Ukrainian.

That is unthinkable now. The major question is how large a coastal corridor Russia will insist on keeping westward from Crimea, and whether Putin can be persuaded to accept less than the historical dividing line of the Dnieper.

I do not share the Russian triumphalism at the dwindling manpower resources of the Ukraine. With the obscene billions the West is pumping into remote warfare in Ukraine, that is not the factor you might expect.

But the political will of the West to continue to pump in these billions is plainly sapping, as it becomes obvious there will be no successful Ukrainian offensive. Put simply, Russia will outlast its opponents.

“I now have to reassess that view in the light of new information, and I now think Putin was justified in the invasion.”

It has always been the case that the sooner Ukraine and the West settle, the better deal they will get, and that is more true every day. But prolonging the war is an end in itself to those who make money from it.

Putin’s historical disquisition to Tucker Carlson opened some Western eyes to another national perspective, and gave rise to widespread claims by Western media that Putin was factually wrong. In fact almost all of his facts were correct. The interpretation of them, and the position of other facts which were omitted or given less weight, is of course the art of history.

There is no question I find more fascinating in history than the formation and dissolution of national identities.

My own perspective on this – and there is no subject on which it is more important to understand the vantage point of the person writing – is governed by two factors in particular.

Firstly, I am a Scot and come from one of Europe’s oldest nation states, which then lost its independence and struggles to regain it after being submerged in a new “British” national identity.

Secondly, as a former diplomat I lived and worked in the political field in a number of countries with differing histories of national identity.

These include Poland, a nation state which the historian Norman Davies brilliantly quipped, “Has emerged from time to time through the mists of history – but never in the same place twice.”

It includes Ghana, a state with an extremely strong sense of national identity but which was an entirely artificial colonial creation.

It includes Nigeria, another entirely artificial colonial creation but which has struggled enormously to build national identity against deep and often violent ethnic and cultural differences.

It includes Uzbekistan, a country which also has entirely artificial colonial borders but which the western “left” fail to recognise as an ex-colony because they refuse to acknowledge the Soviet Union was a continuation of the Russian Empire.

So I have seen all this, as someone with a training and interest as a historian, who has read a great deal of Eastern European history. I have also lived in Russia and was for a time both a fluent Russian and Polish speaker. I do not write this to claim I am right, but so that you know what has formed my view.

Putin argued at great length that there never was such a country as “Ukraine”. The BBC has run a “fact check” and claimed this is “Nonsense.”

Is it Nonsense?

There are several points to make about this. The first is that the BBC did not, as it claimed, go to “independent historians.” It went to Polish, Ukrainian and Armenian historians with their own very distinct agenda.

The second is that these historians did not actually take issue with Putin’s facts. For a fact-check it does not really examine any of Putin’s historical facts at all. What the historians did was put forward other facts they felt deserve more weight, or different interpretations of the facts referenced by Putin.

But none argued convincingly for the former existence of a Ukrainian national state or even the long term existence of Ukrainian national identity.

In fact their arguments were largely consistent with Putin. The BBC quote Prof. Ronald Suny:

“Mr Suny points out that the inhabitants of these lands when they were conquered by Russia were neither Russian nor Ukrainian, but Ottoman, Tatar or Cossacks – Slavic peasants who had fled to the frontiers.”

Which is absolutely true: 18th century Russia did not conquer a territory called “Ukraine.” Much of the land of Ukraine was under Muslim rule when conquered by Catherine the Great, and nobody  called themselves “Ukrainian.”

The BBC then gives this quote:

“But Anita Prazmowska, a professor emerita at the LSE, says that although a national consciousness emerged later among Ukrainians than other central European nations, there were Ukrainians during that period.

“[Vladimir Putin] is using a 20th Century concept of the state based on the protection of a defined nation, as something that goes back. It doesn’t.”

Which is hardly accusing Putin of speaking “nonsense” either.

Prazmowska admits the development of Ukrainian national consciousness came “later than other Central European states,” which is very definitely true. Prazmowska herself has a very Central European take – the idea of the nation state in England, Scotland and France, for example, developed well ahead of the period of which she was speaking.

[See: “Russian Imperialism?“]

I should address the weakness in Putin’s narrative, around the origins of World War 2. Russian nationalists have great difficulty in accommodating the Stalin/Hitler pact into the narrative of the Great Patriotic War, and while Putin did briefly reference it, his attempt to blame World War 2 essentially on Poland was a low point.

But even here, there was a historical truth that the standard Western narrative ignores.

The Rydz-Smigly–led military dictatorship in Poland after the death of Pilsudski was not a pleasant regime. Putin was actually correct about Munich: both the U.K. and France had asked Poland to allow the Soviet army to march through to bolster Czechoslovakia against Germany, and Poland refused. (Ridz-Smigly did not trust Stalin, and frankly I don’t blame him).

But this is an example of part of Putin’s narrative that countered the received Western tradition, that most well-informed people in the West have no idea happened, and is perfectly true.

The fusing back then of Ukrainian nationalism with Nazism, and the atrocities of Ukrainian nationalists in WW2 against not just Jews but also Poles and other minorities, were also perfectly true.

It is a simple and stark truth there never was a Ukrainian state before 1991. There just was not. Lands currently comprising Ukraine were at various times under the rule of Muslim Khans, of the Ottomans, of Cossack Hetmans (possibly the closest thing to proto-Ukrainians), the Polish-Lithuanian confederation and Russian Tsars.

As I have stated on this blog before, the boundary between Polish/Lithuanian and Russian influence became settled on the Dnieper. I have also published this map before, showing that history resonates through the current conflict.

There is also the case of third-party recognition of the Ukrainian nationality. I have read, for example, the letters and memoirs, both published and unpublished, of scores of British soldiers and civil servants involved in the Imperial rivalry with Russia in Asia.

Many had contact with Russian officers or diplomats. They did clearly recognise different ethnic identities within the Russian Empire.

The Russian diplomat Jan Witkiewicz was described repeatedly by British officers as “Polish”, for example. “Cossack” and “Tartar” were frequently used. I cannot recall any of these British sources ever using the description “Ukrainian.”

Nor did British officers who actually passed through Ukraine, like Fred Burnaby and Arthur Connolly, describe it as such in their memoirs. Now I am not claiming that if British imperialists did not notice something, it did not exist.

But if there were a centuries-old recognition by the rival Empire of the existence of a Ukrainian national identity, that would definitely mean something. There does not appear to be such.

I should be interested to know where Ukrainian nationalists claim their cultural heritage lies as proof of early national identity.

What is the Ukrainian equivalent of Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt speech, of Scotland’s Blind Harry, or even of Poland’s Pan Tadeusz? (This is a genuine question. There may be areas of Ukrainian historic identity of which I am unaware).

Putin was not wrong about history (apart from the dodgy bit about origins of the second world war). But the correct question is whether any of this matters.

“The alternative to Putin’s action probably was indeed massacre and ethnic cleansing.”

It is not whether Putin’s historical analysis is broadly correct, it is whether this matters. I am inclined to the view that Putin is correct that there is little evidence that the people living in Ukraine, hundreds of years ago, ever considered themselves a distinct national entity.

But they are all dead, so they don’t get a vote. The only thing that matters is the opinion of those living there now.

National Identity

Ukraine’s Parliament in 2013. (Wadco2, CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons)

It seems to me beyond dispute that there is now a Ukrainian national identity. I know several Ukrainians who consider themselves joyously and patriotically Ukrainian, just as I know patriotic Ghanaians and even patriotic Uzbeks. The question of how this identity was forged and how recently is not the point.

I should add there are undoubtedly a great many Ukrainians whose sense of national identity is not linked to Nazism. There is a historical and a current strain of Nazism in Ukrainian nationalism, and it is far too tolerated by the Ukrainian state; that is certainly true. But to claim all Ukrainian nationalists are Nazis is a nonsense.

The formation of national identity is a very curious thing. Ivory Coast has just won the African Cup of Nations at soccer, beating Nigeria in the final. The competition arouses huge patriotic fervour throughout the continent of Africa.

But the boundaries of all the African nations, except arguably Ethiopia, are entirely artificial colonial constructs. They cut right across ethnic, cultural and linguistic boundaries.

Much of modern Ghana was the old Ashanti kingdom, but that extended much further into now Ivory Coast. The coastal areas were never Ashanti. In the east, the Ewe people’s lands are cut by a completely artificial boundary with Togo. To the north, largely Muslim populations live a much more rural lifestyle.

Yet Ghanaians are fiercely proud of this imposed state of Ghana. They are proud it was the first African state to attain independence, they are proud of its heritage of supporting African liberation movements including the ANC, they are proud of its education system. They have a real sense of national identity that goes far beyond the passionate support of its sporting teams.

Ghanaian identity is modern, ahistoric, within entirely colonial boundaries. But it is real and valid.

In Central Asia, the boundaries of the “stans” are again colonial boundaries that cut right across the pre-existing Khanates. The boundaries of these ex-Soviet republics were carefully designated by Stalin not to be ethnically or culturally coherent, to guard against the development of national opposition.

So the greatest Tajik cities, Bokhara and Samarkand, are not in Tajikistan but Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has important similarities to Ukraine. Both are states with boundaries of Soviet republics, which have no relationship to any pre-existing state or nation. In both – and this may be a legacy of Soviet authoritarianism – the state has attempted to force national identity by compulsory homogeneity.

So Russian language medium in education was first banned in Uzbekistan, and then Tajik. Ukraine has similarly banned the Russian language. This of course is nothing new in state behaviour, as Highland Scots well know.

Yet even in Uzbekistan, a passionate national identity has been created, even among Kazakhs, Tajiks etc who reside there. The alchemy by which this happens is mystifying; partly it seems to depend on a natural loyalty to whatever authority exists, which is a rather troubling thought.

For Central Asia, Olivier Roy’s The New Central Asia, the Creation of Nations has some thoughts on the sociology of the process.

I am aware I need to read more on the creation of national identity, because most of my thought is based on simple observation. It is however entirely plain that national identity can appear, and can be genuine, and can do so in a period of merely decades.

There is now a Ukrainian national identity, and those who subscribe to it have the right to their state.

That they have a right to the former boundaries of Soviet Ukraine is a different proposition. Given the reality that it is plain that a significant minority of the population do not subscribe to Ukrainian national identity, that civil war broke out, and that this relates to historic geographic fracture lines, it seems that division of territory is now not only inevitable, but desirable.

All people of good will should therefore wish to see an end to fighting and a peace settlement, of which the territorial elements are somewhere close to the current lines between the forces, with Russia giving back some territory in return for recognition of its gains.

The alternative is more death, human misery and economic malaise.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

62 comments for “Craig Murray: Mea Culpa on Ukraine

  1. Stephen Oliver
    February 26, 2024 at 19:07

    At the time the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Red Army had been fighting a series of significant battles since 11 May, 1939 against the IJA and Manchukuo Army intent on invading Siberia to acquire its natural resources.

    To avoid fighting a war on two fronts against Germany and its ally Japan (Anti-Comintern Pact concluded between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan on 25 November 1936), Zhukov planned a major offensive on 20 August 1939 to clear the Japanese from the Khalkhin Gol region and to end the fighting. This offensive was completed successfully by the Red Army on 15th September aby a ceasefire that came into effect on the 16th September, the day before the USSR occupied Poland.
    20th August was just before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed on 23/24 August.

    From Wikipedia.
    “This defeat combined with the Chinese resistance in the Second Sino-Japanese War,[67] together with the signing of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact (which deprived the Army of the basis of its war policy against the USSR), moved the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo away from the policy of the North Strike Group favored by the Army, which wanted to seize Siberia for its resources as far as Lake Baikal.”


    The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact meant that the Soviet Union avoided fighting German and Japan at the same time in World War 2 on two fronts and Soviet Union only attacked Japan three months after Germany was defeated.

  2. Common Sense
    February 26, 2024 at 18:28

    I also have the impression, that the Russian Federation is always paying a lot attention to international law.

    Would be interesting to know how the Russian President is justifying his SMO under the given international law.

  3. Common Sense
    February 26, 2024 at 17:30

    There are no human races.

    There are only human kinds.

    We are all descendants of the bony fish, like all of us vertebrates.

  4. LeoSun
    February 26, 2024 at 13:05

    Hmmmm, “Apologies?!?” NO offense, Craig Murray; BUT, I, LeoSun, liken the apology to my father’s-in-law “defense,” when confronted with/resistance, “I’m NOT always right; BUT, I’m NEVER, wrong!”

    …… “My belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.” Craig Murray

    A “simple observation or naïveté?” imo, “ownership.” AND, “ownership” rules the day, “Own it. Do it. Done!”

    My apologies, for not even realizing Craig Murray was not on board the “we” got this, “THERE CAN BE NO illusions as to the degree of lying, provocation, and military violence that” Biden’s-Harris’ War Chiefs aka Board of Executioners are “prepared to carry out in pursuit of its geostrategic aims,” i.e., “Kill, first. Think, later.” It’s utter folly!!! Prepare for the worst.” “Grand Delusions,” Patrick Lawrence @ hxxps://

    Obviously, imo, the “driver” executed day after day, month after month, year after year, by the wild, wild, West’s Board of Executioners’ War on Terra” is, “Kill, first. Think, later.” Hence, the advice, “Keep your head on a swivel;” AND, “[USE] this moment to change things.” ..i.e., “Disassembling the System!!!” Hence, heeding the sound advice, we heard @ “Complicity w/Israel.” I.E., Beginning w/“Ownership, “Take steps to PREVENT genocide. Take responsibility to PROTECT people. UPHOLD, Geneva Conventions, by taking action!!!” EDUCATE the “masses.” Deep six, “Keep America Dumb.”

    “[USE] this moment to change things.” Senator Shoebridge. “It can be transformative!” Peter Cronau. “Push Harder!!!” Matt Kennard. The gentlemen’s moral compass is 100% on f/point! @ hxxps://

    My, LeoSun’s, “simple observation or naïveté” about National Identity is it oughta be “ONE” International Identity, i.e., “It’s one (1) race, the human race.” Therefore, the focus oughta be EMBRACE a “Plan to Save the Planet!” Save all plant, animal & human Life!!! ….November 24, 2021, “A Plan to Save the Planet is a provisional text, a draft built out of the analyses and demands of our people’s movements and governments. It asks to be read and discussed, to be criticised and developed further. This is a first draft of many drafts to come. Please contact us at with your criticisms and your suggestions, since this is a living document.”

    …. “Three (3) apartheids – of money, medicine, and food – govern the immediate situation in the world. [WHAT IS] the cause of these three apartheids?”

    “The control that a handful of companies and governments exercise over the [GLOBAL] economy, 1) Control over science and technology; 2) Control over financial systems; 3) Control over access to resources; 4) Control over weaponry; 5) Control over communications.” hxxps://

    “The question of how this identity was forged and how recently is not the point.”

    …. Not for nothin’; BUT, “we” are taught @ 5 years young, to “pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United $tates of America.” Imo, [Sweet land of poverty, injustices, misery, resistance. To thee “we” scream, “Set Julian Assange FREE!” FREE of the West’s tentacles far-reaching, dirty, grubby, bloody, infected claws, keeping Julian Assange in solitary confinement @ Belmarsh prison, w/o charges! It’s f/outrageous! inhumane!! Inphkndecent!!!

    “Hear! Hear!” Stop the persecution. Stop the Prosecution. End the Extradition of Julian Assange!”

    Regarding the USG/NATO/Israel war on Palestinians, once, again, “To Thee “We” Scream,” “Stop the Killing!” Cease-Fire, Forever! Drop Food; NOT Bombs!!!

    W/o a doubt, the Ivory Coast vs. Nigeria Soccer Match, “SCREAMS,” International & National Sports is the competition wherein athletes, “They cut right across ethnic, cultural and linguistic boundaries.” However, where there’s a profit, ca$h, to be made, Politics abounds. Once, again, the grubby, dirty, bloody, infected claws of government are present. The government’s tentacles abound, reaching into every nook & cranny of everyone’s work/life balance and/or a life’s work. Hence, the refrain, “Hands -Off!”

    [Biden-Harris, their War Chiefs, the US Congress] * “owns all of this —- every despicable aspect of the calamity unfolding in Gaza perpetrated by America’s ever-reliable and obedient proxy, Israel.” [Biden’s-Harris’] “team” has concocted exculpatory “evidence” and lied again & again to cover up its complicity in the killing of countless Palestinians, …” * Andrew Mitrovica, Al Jazeera Columnist, “unpacks Biden’s & his “team’s” beyond f/shameful legacy,” October 19, 2023 @ hxxps://

    “[BUT] the correct question is whether any of this matters.” Craig Murray

    AND, w/o a doubt, “our” Gentlemen, in The Hague, London, Paris, NYC, etc., Craig Murray & Joe Lauria, “GOT” this:

    …. “The only thing that matters is the opinion of those living there now.” Craig Murray

    …… “The people who count most, Gazans, were crushed by the ruling.” Joe Lauria @ hxxps://

    TY, CN, et al. “Keep It Lit!” Ciao

  5. Allyson
    February 26, 2024 at 11:24

    Agree until the last sentence. The diplomatic agreement should include all of the four annexed oblasts. Russia should not cede territory gained.

    • WillD
      February 26, 2024 at 21:44

      Totally agree. There is no valid case for Russia to cede territory in any of the 4 oblasts.

      It would be a huge betrayal of the people in those territories and send a terrible signal back to the Russian people that Putin was lying all along about caring for those Russian speakers there.

      Any deal made with Ukraine or the west will not be trusted by Russia, and will likley be broken by the west. Ukraine and the west will have no choice but to accept the reality on the ground.

  6. February 26, 2024 at 10:18

    The idea is going around that for an agglomeration of people to be a “nation,” that population must share a certain ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious purity – that a nation, in other words, is defined in terms of the people who inhabit it.

    There is of course, another perspective from which to characterize a nation, and that is to understand a nation as a project, a set of goals, methods, institutions, and principles according to which it is organized.

    Canada defines itself as a mosaic, the U.S. as a melting pot, the Russian Federation as an ethnically, culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse society with a deep appreciation for the sacrifices previous generations endured so that Russia would live on.

    Imagine yourself choosing a nation to which you would like to belong.

    Certain individuals seem oddly concerned that everyone who lives in the nation chosen will have the same ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious background as themselves. But as everyone knows, profound enmity and powerful disagreements are not unknown among ethnically, culturally, linguistically, and religiously pure populations.

    Better luck in being happy with your choice of nations to join is likely to result if you choose on the basis of respect for dissenting opinions, willingness to know what is true, prioritizing mutual benefit, and discouraging exploitation of others.

    Scapegoating “others” for the failure of a nation to organize itself as a vehicle for shared prosperity and social justice is an exercise in denial and an effort to escape from reality.

  7. Martin
    February 25, 2024 at 21:56

    I wonder what would have happened if Ukrainian nationalists had demanded, and gained, independence for those oblasts which truly aspired to be mono-culturally Ukrainian, instead of trying to impose their vision on indifferent or hostile people in South and East Ukraine.

    An independent Galicia might well have been acceptable to Russia, even as an EU/NATO member (the former essentially entailing the latter). Avoiding losing several hundred thousand dead or disabled and countless million emigres makes that outcome look pretty good by comparison to the present disaster – for all but the US and its ghoulish political/military class.

  8. Rafael
    February 25, 2024 at 21:20

    The question of Ukrainian nationality is not at all as simple as some people make it seem. This makes Craig’s inputs all the more valuable.

    Whether Putin knows it or not, he has adopted the position of Rosa Luxemburg, who opposed the Bolshevik’s doctrine on the nationality question. She thought it was in error even in cases like that of Finland and Poland, but in the case of Ukraine she thought it absurd, because there was no basis in history or culture for Ukrainian nationhood. Here is part of what she had to say (originally in German):

    Ukrainian nationalism in Russia was something quite different from, let us say, Czechish, Polish or Finnish nationalism in that the former was a mere whim, a folly of a few dozen petty-bourgeois intellectuals without the slightest roots in the economic, political or psychological relationships of the country; it was without any historical tradition, since the Ukraine never formed a nation or government, was without any national culture, except for the reactionary-romantic poems of Shevschenko. ….
    And this ridiculous pose of a few university professors and students was inflated into a political force by Lenin and his comrades through their doctrinaire agitation concerning the “right of self-determination including etc.” To what was at first a mere farce they lent such importance that the farce became a matter of the most deadly seriousness — not as a serious national movement for which, afterward as before, there are no roots at all, but as a shingle and rallying flag of counter-revolution!

  9. Baz B
    February 25, 2024 at 20:40

    There are many things that I have admired about Mr Murray and his actions/articles, so I was pleased to finally see his acknowledgement that he was wrong on this particular point. However, I do share much of the same feelings as expressed by annie o’hara in her assessment of his sudden change of heart and apology. Also, I note that Mr Murray remains adamant that Mr Putin’s “invasion” of Ukraine was completely “illegal”. He doesn’t state it as his opinion, but as a very definite fact. As a lawyer of many years experience I disagree completely with this assertion, as do many other scholars of International Law. I don’t know if Mr Murray has a law degree, but I do know that Mr Putin does have one and that he goes to great lengths to ensure that his actions are completely legal. Everything in the lead-up to the commencement of the SMO (and since) was done absolutely by the book. If the UK/US/West were as pedantic about “legalities” as Mr Putin is, then the current situation in Ukraine would never have arisen in the first place.

      February 26, 2024 at 12:11

      The invasion may have been justified, but technically speaking, lacking a UN Security Council authorization, and the fact that Article 51 of the UN Charter regarding self-defense applies only to UN member states, which neither Donbass republic were, the invasion did not meet the criteria of international law, hence it was illegal.

      Is Putin’s War Legal? hxxps://

        February 26, 2024 at 12:26

        Article 51
        Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.

  10. Em
    February 25, 2024 at 13:52

    Inconsistency writ large:

    If the very well versed Emeritus Diplomat, Murray, was long ago aware of the historical inconsistencies between the cartographic details and factual historical circumstances, on the ground, then what/whose purpose does his belated Mea Culpa serve today???

    • Carolyn Zaremba
      February 26, 2024 at 08:51

      Good question. Craig is still getting it wrong. He still sees things from a western perspective no matter how he tries to parse the contradictions in his declaration of the morality of the Special Military Operation while simultaneously attacking Vladimir Putin and the people of eastern Ukraine and Crimea who have already affirmed that they want to be part of Russia.

      • Em
        February 26, 2024 at 13:49

        “I read the news today” in Common Dreams, posted to Scheer, praising President Lula da Silva, wherein it quotes him as saying “The UNSC “represents nothing”…. let alone the ‘law’ as equivalent to justice!

        Citing the comment by CN above:
        Article 51
        Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.

        What are non-state, non-NATO observers, such as ‘Palestines’ ethnically cleansed refugees supposed to take away from these UN lessons in the double standards of the law?

        As I see it, the only universal consistency in man’s (call me unwoke) behavior, is her/his capacity for duplicity!
        Why this is so, I doubt even the philosophers, or especially, the philosophers know.

        Thanks for replying to my question teacher!
        In the years I attended schools, my questions were always answered by me being thrown out of class. My ‘education’ was definitely a contributing factor to me being the person I am today.

  11. Jim Neighbor
    February 25, 2024 at 09:29

    To the people who now agree that there is no decency in the Establishment. From this flow several rather obvious conclusions.

    1) If you want this war to end, you have to stop it yourself. Counting on the Establishment to end it out of some sense of decency is clearly off the menu.
    2) If you want the Genocides in Gaza and Yemen to end, you have to stop it yourself. Same reason.
    3) If you want a better world, you have to build it yourself. Same reason.

    An old saying, now apparently erased from America’s collective memory. Don’t get mad … organize.
    Organize until you’ve got enough people to levitate the Pentagon. Even if you can’t pull that Copperfield trick off, you’ll be getting close to the magic number where the security advisors have to advise that they aren’t sure they can hold all those people back for much longer.

    Remember, large crowds of pissed off people can change the world. In fact, it the only thing that has.

    • JonnyJames
      February 26, 2024 at 14:12

      True but not always. We saw that millions of people demonstrated worldwide in early 2003 to stop the attack on Iraq, however the politicians and media continued the lies and the war was launched anyway. We also saw that millions of people worldwide protested the Genocide of Palestine and nothing has happened. In the last century, organized labor was able to affect big change – but there was a lot of violence and many people died. Dr. MLK Jr. was only the most famous of them to be murdered.

      However, the “unipolar” (hegemonic) power of the US is on the decline. It is only a matter of time before we see a big change in world affairs. How much time? Who knows. Maybe not in the next few years, but it is inevitable.

  12. Jim Neighbor
    February 25, 2024 at 09:14

    “My belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.”

    I guess it depends where you come from. Where I came from, this Establishment told me when I was about 10 that for my 18th birthday they would grab me, give me a rifle and some lessons on how to shoot it, then take me to the other side of the world so I could kill people that had never done anything to me, but who the Establishment wanted dead. Then, if I was lucky, the town could cry at my funeral like they did for the older kids.

    On top of that, I look around me at the local ‘tradition’ and ‘values’, and found the Ku Klux Klan, still holding cross burnings the next county over when I went to high school and I was encouraged to join ROTC. Funny how my reaction was to ride out of town on a motorcycle when I was 17 and never look back.

    Me belief of any sort of decency in the Establishment died a long, long time ago. Since then, I’ve gotten old, grown gray hair, and seen the System get so much more worse and nasty over the decades that the Establishment that wanted to send me to Vietnam seems like kind people back in the Good Ol Days. Biden is a nightmare that even Goldwater in 64 could never foresee. Even if he counts just like Daisy.

    I laughed at George Carlin decades ago …. The American Dream. They call it that, because you have to be asleep to believe it. To the 17 year old hillbilly kid who fled it decades ago …. well, at least I had an early wake up call.

  13. napier
    February 25, 2024 at 08:23

    My jaw literally dropped when I read that Craig said Putin was justified. Based on his previous writing on Russia nd Putin, I found this stunning. I agree with his analysis, and like him, I agree with Putin’s decision even more now after seeing the active support for the genocide in Gaza by the West.

    I have friends who believe what they see in Western media, sad as it sounds. After the distorted and blatantly racist coverage of the genocide in Gaza, it’s easier now to argue that anything they’ve been fed from Western media on any state which is not a vassal of the U.S., primarily Russia and China, should be considered unreliable, and they need to dig deeper to understand what’s going on.
    Craig Murray is one of the sources I recommend.

    • Carolyn Zaremba
      February 26, 2024 at 08:53

      I stopped believing mainstream propaganda in the 1960s.

  14. michael888
    February 25, 2024 at 07:56

    Excellent brilliant article on Ukraine and nationalism. Although if you believe Kosovo (the breakaway republic from Serbia) was created LEGALLY by Bill Clinton (he has a statue there), then the Donbas republics, recognized as “independent republics” by Russia, and then defended by Russians under the UN charter ““Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence”– Putin’s lawyers copied Clinton’s Kosovo actions (against Russia’s historic ally Serbia) explicitly, so the SMO was as legal or illegal as the war in Kosovo.

    Historically the Tsar sent troublemakers to the Pale and Borderland (Ukraine). Eastern Europe was a seething mess for hundreds of years, partly because of the lack of natural borders and a history of hatred among the various tribes. Pilsudski the Polish Dictator fought in over 20 “wars”. Churchill and others claimed Eastern Europe were engaged in “Pygmy Wars” that should best be ignored by the West. It is a bit ironic that the stability given by the Soviet Union led to outbreaks of nationalism as the Soviet Union collapsed.

    I went to Tartu in Estonia just after the “Singing Revolution” in the mid ’90s when Estonia became “free”. I had a long talk with a student who told me the new country had no profitable industries except communications (Estonians were eager to know what was going on without a Soviet filter) and pornography (“we have lots of beautiful women”). He said they were having more issues with neighboring countries than with Russia. He also said that since the 11th century Estonia had only been free for 23 years; “I think the odds may be against us”. So far, so good; possibly having a bogeyman in Russia suppresses their natural enmity toward their neighbors. Nationalist hatred may be preferable to Tribal hatreds, reducing the number of “wars” (though fighting between nations when it erupts or is deliberately launched is more impactful).

  15. annie o'hara
    February 25, 2024 at 03:29

    Was Mr Murray wrong to believe that his view of Russia history would be preferred to Mr Putin’s? ‘Inherent decency’ my, my, after years wrapped in establishment clothing, Mr Murray thought that? Naive is a nice word, a soft word, when in actual fact he should have said, ‘I was bloody wrong, very wrong. How could I have been so wrong?’ But later he writes that he was not wrong here and here, and so maybe he thinks he was right after all. Russia went into Ukraine on a rescue mission, and only those who don’t give a damn about the thousands of people slaughtered in the Donbas, condemn Russia.
    Without the destruction of Gaza Mr Murray would still believe today that there is an inherent decency in the West, and that is something Russia does not have. Decency! Wow! If there needs to be a Gaza to change Mr Murray’s mind, then has shown Mr Murray who he is and why he is still wearing establishment clothing.

    • JonnyJames
      February 25, 2024 at 13:16

      Anti-Russia bias is deep-seated in Anglo and “western” culture, and if goes back much further than the USSR. One could say it goes back to the the Great Schism of 1054, or even earlier. The late Palestinian American scholar, Edward Said, wrote about this as part of his concept of “Orientalism”. The “west” defines itself by projecting negative attributes onto the the “other” (negative identity). The “east” is heretical, backward, violent, brutal, tyrannical, lawless, mysterious etc. So, the “west” can be seen as the opposite. Of course most modern nation-states teach that their country is great, better, different, etc than the rest.

      Then we had several generations of anti-Russia Red Scares, an anti-communist witch hunts. Nowadays we have the cartoon-like demonization of Putin and Russia. Not to say that Russia is somehow superior, but the ridiculous lies and negative stereotypes draw on centuries of anti-Russia and Orientalist traditions. Many people, even those who are critical of the US/UK policies, arguably have some degree of subconscious bias against Russia and the east. I applaud Mr. Murray for adjusting his position and issuing an apology, many people cannot or will not do that.

    • Carolyn Zaremba
      February 26, 2024 at 08:54

      Thank you. I agree.

  16. February 25, 2024 at 00:36

    My take on nationhood:

  17. bardamu
    February 24, 2024 at 23:02

    Most journalistic views get contradicted by events. Rarely do views get rescinded, let alone with subtlety and insight. Thanks to Craig Murray, who could easily have been more incorrect than he had been.

    Most all of us Westerners have gone through something like this personally, in one year or another. We used to call it “radicalization,” though there is something un-radicalized about the term. It is hard to imagine anything more radical than imagining the great empires as egalitarian or anti-authoritarian. Yet the notions recede slowly; it’s just how we were brought up.

    In his historical narrative, Putin argued against a Ukrainian national identity to be associated with a Ukrainian race. He may imagine the notion of a “Ukrainian race” as prefiguring Western support of Ukraine more than it does.

    Putin himself appears, even now, to have a greater belief in an “inherent decency in the Western political establishment” than is warranted. But we should probably each check every time the matter comes up.

    • Jim Neighbors
      February 25, 2024 at 09:54

      yeah, I guess we should still ritually look for that ‘sense of Decency’. But, we should not waste a lot of time looking for it.

      Decency is certainly not a capitalist value. The word Decency will never appear on a Balance Sheet, and it makes no contribution to the bottom line. And in terms of “European Values”, at best it has only been rhetoric … well, outside of the revolutionary times in Paris and St. Petersberg. And “European Values” hated both those outbreaks of Decency and united for long struggles to stamp it out.

      So, yes, we should check to see if any Decency has recently sprouted. But also remember that these countries consider Decency to be a weed. Not only is there no Profit in it, but it has to be weeded out to make room for bigger profits. While we should look for Decency, we should also move on to the basic fact that if we want Decency, we are going to have to create it ourselves.

  18. February 24, 2024 at 20:40

    Hats off to Craig Murray for presenting his views with a fair measure of humility — IMO, a rare commodity in the blogosphere. Right or wrong, Mr Murray’s careful perspectives stand out in a swampy landscape of blowhards and know-it-alls.

  19. lester
    February 24, 2024 at 17:29

    Somehow I don’t trust Tucker Carlson’s version of Russian history. Anyway, what Mr. Putin believes is important.

  20. Valerie
    February 24, 2024 at 17:19

    “The same powers who are funding and arming Ukraine are funding and arming a genocide by racial supremacist Israeli forces in Gaza. It is beyond argument that my belief in some kind of inherent decency in the Western political Establishment was naive.

    I apologise.”

    Apology accepted Mr. Murray. We all can be subjected to naïvety at times.

  21. Lois Gagnon
    February 24, 2024 at 17:09

    The US thought it had Russia in its grasp under Yeltzin. The looting of its treasury and people had begun in earnest. Then Putin replaced Yeltzin, booted out the US looters and restored normalcy to the economy. For this he will never be forgiven. He is disobedient to the self proclaimed global empire. Regime change is in the works. Except Putin and his government have determined that the US cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. They understand the end game and will do what is necessary to defend its sovereignty. How dare they?

    The highly degreed, but not so bright keepers of the imperial oligarchy have not figured out how dramatically the world geopolitical situation has changed. They seem to be clueless as to why their demands are met with indifference and even hostility. They believe their fantasy illusions about the goodness of America, even as it has killed more innocents around the world than any country ever. You would have to be willfully blind to believe such fairy tales. The ship of fools has landed on the rocks. Ukraine is the symbolic last hurrah. I sincerely hope the people of Ukraine figure this out as they consider their options from here.

    • Carolyn Zaremba
      February 26, 2024 at 08:57

      Thank you.

  22. Charles E. Carroll
    February 24, 2024 at 16:46

    Well said Susan!

  23. Sam F
    February 24, 2024 at 16:14

    Thanks to Craig Murray for this introspection and analysis.
    Russia cannot now cede any of its minor gains in Ukraine for defense reasons.
    It knows that neither Ukraine, the US or NATO will abide by any treaty.
    They will continue to arm Ukraine to create a quagmire and provoke Russia.
    Russia must now not only control the Black Sea coast to control the Ukraine economy.
    It must have a DMZ exceeding 200-300 miles due to US long range missiles to Ukraine.
    So the lands east of the Dnieper must be controlled if not possessed by Russia.
    Russia would find that an anti-Russia quagmire unless demilitarized and policed.
    Perhaps an agriculture-only DMZ with very few inhabitants and Russia-controlled borders.
    But there is no point in considering any treaty with NATO as part of a solution.
    The US and NATO are not agreement-capable and have no moral principles in goverment.

  24. Enzica Jones
    February 24, 2024 at 14:51

    Civil war didn’t just ‘break out’. It was caused by an attack from one side (Kiev), and a defense by the other side (Donbass). Cause and effect has a direction.

  25. Cara
    February 24, 2024 at 14:09

    A superb and important analysis. I especially appreciate the discussion of national identities and would like to read more on the sociology Murray mentions. That said, I have twice listened to the first part of Putin’s speech and I do not understand him to have said, or even hinted, that Poland was in anyway responsible for initiating WWII. Quite the contrary in my read: Hitler used a dispute with Poland, cynically I would say, to launch its invasion and implement its plans for Poland. Obviously that is just my take and Murray has much more experience and knowledge. Either way, many thanks to CN for publishing this commentary.

  26. mgr
    February 24, 2024 at 13:43

    Actually, I think that Putin’s description of the history of Ukraine was in fact for a different purpose.

    One of the main goals of the SMO is to de-Nazify Ukraine. As Putin pointed out, this is not unusual. Many states in Europe, Germany, for example, have strict laws against glorifying Germany’s Nazi regime. In Ukraine, Ukrainian nationalist Stephan Bandera was a Nazi collaborator during WWII. Ukrainian Nazis murdered thousands of Slavs, Jews and others. Today, Stephan Bandera and his fascist ideology are celebrated and upheld in Ukraine.

    My understanding is that Ukrainian schools are mandated to teach that Russians are descended from Slavs and are therefore less than human while Ukrainians are descended from Vikings, or in another version from Germans, and therefore Ukrainians are human. Also, that the Ukrainian language is not a dialect of Russian but of German.

    Of course, neither of these Ukrainian perspectives are in fact true but they are taught in the schools and upheld in Ukrainian government and society. They form the underpinning of the Banderite fascist ideology.

    Setting the record straight as to Ukraine’s origins (not from Vikings!) is thus a necessary part of the De-Nazification of Ukraine.

    This, of course, is my opinion but the above are all facts on the ground in Ukraine so far as I know and it certainly puts Mr. Putin’s history lesson in a different light.

    • Rafael
      February 25, 2024 at 15:03

      Do you have a source for the fact that schools are mandated to teach that “Ukrainian language is not a dialect of Russian”? It reminds me of a video I saw where a minister from Kiev was berating small school children(!) that their Russian names were “wrong”.
      She displayed to the children a list of the “correct”, government approved diminutives and the “incorrect” Russian ones, for various common names. Something along the lines of:

      “What is your name?” “Sasha”. “Wrong! Your name is not Sasha it is Aleks”

      Unfortunately I no longer know how to access that video. But teaching that Russian and Ukrainian are not sister languages is even more absurd, if that is possible.

      • mgr
        February 26, 2024 at 12:57

        Rafael: Hi Rafael, Thanks for the additional information. I’m sorry, I cannot locate the article that I referred to. I remember reading this information from a trusted source. It caught my attention because a similar situation has also been reported in Israeli education in regards to Palestinians; that they are subhuman. The outcome of this kind of education has been seen, for example, in the joyful behavior of young Israeli teens in response to previous bombings of Gaza.

        Anyway, I tried to track it down and could not find it. If I do find it and have the opportunity to post it, I will.

        • Rafael
          February 26, 2024 at 15:47

          Thanks, mgr. I’ll do the same if I ever find my source.

          Concerning Israeli attitudes, I learned first hand from a friend who had just returned from a stay in Israel decades ago that extreme racist attitudes against Arabs were already commonplace at that time, and being openly expressed.

  27. Carolyn L Zaremba
    February 24, 2024 at 12:45

    Russia initiated the Special Military Operation is SELF DEFENSE, Craig. I’m afraid you are still shilling for the U.S. empire. As Professor Jeffrey Sachs has stated clearly in an online interview with Judge Napolitano, the U.S. and the collective west still think that Russia is the Soviet Union. They are stuck in a time warp and I am afraid that, on this subject, so are you.

    • February 24, 2024 at 19:02

      Yes, he got it “wrong” early on, and I was going to suggest reading Sachs myself. Regardless, the piece (and his experience) was a valuable, thoughtful experience. Something to savor.

    • Sam F
      February 25, 2024 at 05:26

      They only appear to be stuck in the narratives of yesteryear.
      Most of the anticommunist opportunists did not care whether they had the truth.
      They were tyrant personalities inventing demons to pose as defenders and demand power.
      Those types are always with us, and still invent foreign monsters to demand power.
      They do not care how many rationally agree, only how many are afraid to disagree.

      • Carolyn Zaremba
        February 26, 2024 at 09:03

        Interesting thought. Of course the U.S. neocons are amoral, but their amorality makes them even more dependent on their Cold War mind set and will defeat them in the end as power shifts east.

  28. February 24, 2024 at 12:32

    The BBC “fact check” claimed that Putin illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, without mentioning that it happened 2 days after the Maidan coup – and almost a decade (since 2008) of US and NATO statements that Ukraine would become a member of NATO (and US/NATO regime change program that cost $5 billion, plus military training and supply of weapons to Ukraine).

    BBC did exactly the same thing in Israeli genocide and Oct. 7.

  29. simplejohn
    February 24, 2024 at 12:16

    Thank you for the world view.
    Human potential within most individuals ranges from the sublime to orgiastic evil which we’re trying on for size.
    The pendulum will swing.
    I only hope it swings because humans expand their consciousness and not simply because of dead weight.
    I believe it’s possible because the internet allows good people to connect.
    That, and censorship has no forever sponsors but goodness does.
    And then there’s North Korea?
    Much love.

  30. February 24, 2024 at 12:03

    Fine, humane, reasonable, as always, Craig. Your intellect, decency, and wisdom are the reasons you are in opposition to the vicious insanity of your government and ours.

  31. Susan Leslie
    February 24, 2024 at 11:58

    The problem isn’t Russia, the problem is the United States of America. The government of the USA thinks it can bomb, replace legally elected governments through illegal coups, steal resources from other countries, sanction at will, arrest innocent people, lie through mainstream media and using their own revolting voices, to the American public on a daily basis, spend our hard-earned tax dollars on arming illegal genocide around the world, starve innocents and children, and destroy the environment, without any repercussions. It is depressing and disgusting that this is our world today. These depraved individuals call Russia evil but in reality, they are the real evil in the world and they are trying to deprive true journalists like Jullian Assange from showing the truth about their truly sick agendas…

    • Bruce Edgar
      February 24, 2024 at 19:06

      Since I can’t simply strike a “like” icon as on other sites, wanted you to know that your perspective is “right on.”

      • Floyd Gardner
        February 26, 2024 at 12:24

        “Me too,” Bruce.

    • Rebecca
      February 25, 2024 at 03:23

      “The problem isn’t Russia” depends on your perspective. For many Russian people, such as those who are LGBTQ+, the problem is Putin and the Orthodox Church. Putin is a reactionary nationalist who thinks the Bolshevik revolution was a disaster, likes Stalin and would prefer the kind of Russia that existed under the Tsars (the russianisation of ‘Caesar’, incidentally). There are far too many commenters on this site who appear to regard Putin as a hero just because he is at war against NATO. What does he want other than to be accepted by the Western capitalist imperialist powers that he clearly adores?

      • mike
        February 25, 2024 at 09:04

        troll alert
        sorry but a western liberal obsession with identity does not translate into a geo-political understanding of history. Your characterisation of “putin” as a Tsarist Imperialist places you far to the right of anyone here. And also profoundly ignorant of his many speeches and explanations of modern Russia and hopes for a multipolar future world. Putin may have been mistakenly hopeful of a friendly relation with Europe and the West but that is now over — probably permanently. Much of what Putin says seems to be designed to generate pride and respect in Russian people for their own historic culture, as a bulkwark against the centuries-long hatred and demonisation of Russia by the Western nations and their self-serving ideology of cultural supremacy.

      • Carolyn Zaremba
        February 26, 2024 at 09:07

        You sound like the SEP.

    • Carolyn Zaremba
      February 26, 2024 at 09:06

      Thank you, Susan. I agree 100 percent.

  32. Carl Zaisser
    February 24, 2024 at 11:15

    Thanks, Craig Murray, for this insightful discussion of nationality in the context of the shifting tides of history. And for pointing out the appalling depths that Western governments have shown themselves capable of devolving to…in Gaza and the rest of Palestine, even while Anthony Blinken announces he is “disappointed”…if we can actually believe he is telling the truth even about his own feelings… that Israel plans to continue expanding settlements. One can imagine that ‘the West’ would have ultimately behaved the exact same way in a Ukrainian military assault on its own citizens in the Donbass. But now they are Russian citizens, and will remain protected by Russia.

  33. George Hallam
    February 24, 2024 at 11:09

    It is rare for people to admit that they have been wrong. I happen to agree with most of what he is saying now, but that shouldn’t detract from recognising his intellectual integrity and moral courage .

  34. Vera Gottlieb
    February 24, 2024 at 10:04

    I would say that it becomes more and more obvious that the Anglo/Saxon world is rotting away…right down to the core. The white race in decline…

    • joey_n
      February 24, 2024 at 18:02

      I thought ethnic Russians were white as well. They’re not “in decline” either way…

    • Rebecca
      February 25, 2024 at 03:27

      There is no ‘white race’. There are no ‘races’ at all. If I hadn’t read your more insightful comments on Mondoweiss, your words here would sound nastily far right.

      • mog
        February 25, 2024 at 23:03

        Bigotry is the reluctance, refusal or inability to tolerate diversity. Those who can only tolerate diversity by denying that it exists, are bigots. Races, colors and creeds exist in bewildering variety – wondrous diversity! Don’t deny it, embrace it!

        • Carolyn Zaremba
          February 26, 2024 at 09:10

          Biologically dubious. We are all the same species.

      • Carolyn Zaremba
        February 26, 2024 at 09:08


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