Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.—Zbig Brzezinski, 1997
The Russo-Ukraine war, starting date either 2014 or 2022, is the culmination of NATO’s eastward march which began in the 1990s. The conflict did not spring from out of the blue, which is the impression you might get from the mainstream media.
But why, one wonders, did NATO enlarge east in the first place? This policy decision was predicated on somebody’s dubious assumption that Russia remained an enduring enemy of the U.S. and Europe, even after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
If you bought that premise, then Russia still needed to be contained and checkmated by military power. In any case, certain Neocon characters in Washington were eager to prolong the Cold War no matter what. This time around they could lord it over Russia in a unipolar world created by the crack-up of the Soviet Union.
Note what the dean of Sovietologists, George Kennan, stated in At Century’s Ending: Refections, 1982-1995:
Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.
The unchallenged assumption—or was it just a pretense?!—that Russia remained an enemy of “the West” is without factual foundation. It was little more than a Neocon-Neoliberal wet dream to justify the prerogatives of American geostrategic primacy.
The U.S. and NATO won the Cold War, or at any rate were left standing, when communism imploded on the streets of Moscow and in the eastern bloc. No mystery. Russians and Eastern Europeans wanted a better life like everybody else. Karl Marx and the USSR were not up to the task.
The Soviet Union had vanished, almost overnight. The Warsaw Pact disbanded soon thereafter. Moscow was now anti-communist. Russia was reverting to its pre-Bolshevik, pro-Orthodox Christian status, a European state within the eastern outskirts of Europe. This renaissance scenario was what Vladimir Putin had in mind going forward when Yeltsin passed the baton to him in 1999.
Not surprisingly, Putin wanted to recoup Russia’s great power standing, reform and expand its wrecked economy, and cooperate with Europe in every way possible. He needed western Europe to resuscitate Russia. And Europe needed Russia’s raw materials, especially petroleum and natural gas. It looked to be exactly what it was: a win-win relationship based upon mutual self-interest.
But then Putin, like Yeltsin before him, could not help but observe NATO’s puzzling march east—which finally ended at Russia’s doorsteps. Why? What did Washington expect Moscow to conclude from this odd development? How would it react? Was it a deliberate provocation?
Remember that Washington had promised, after the unification of Germany in the early 1990s, that NATO—a military alliance controlled from Washington—would not move eastward one inch. But that promise was repeatedly broken, even in the face of strong protests and red-line warnings from Moscow.
The Kremlin correctly concluded that it had been deceived and, in fact, that NATO and Washington must have something in store for Russia down the road. In short, NATO’s enlargement looked suspicious. The Kremlin could not have regarded it otherwise. Who was the enemy?
Yes, Poland wanted it, because the Poles were endemically anti-Russian going back to the days of Napoleon. But Poland is not a good excuse for the State Department and Pentagon to pursue an unwise, unwarranted policy that was bound to boomerang. In effect, Washington took full advantage of Poland’s atavistic attitudes to advance Washington’s own NATO agenda.
Inevitably, NATO’s expansion led to the Eurasian crossroads—to Ukraine and to the CIA-instigated coup in Kiev in 2014. And later, in February 2022, to Putin’s pushback, his “Special Military Operation” and then to Washington’s proxy-war against Russia, employing Ukraine as a cat’s paw.
The target from the start was post-Yeltsin Russia. The idea was to destabilize it and wreck its economy which Putin had successfully revived. The goal was to decouple Europe, especially Germany, from Russia and bring about regime change in the Kremlin. This is the drama we are now witnessing.
In case you haven’t noticed, Washington has demonstrated since the inglorious days of Woodrow Wilson, if not before, that it requires an enemy or multiple enemies, real or imagined, to keep the party going. Why?
What was Putin supposed to do when he and his Kremlin associates saw the mask come off in 2013-2014? What did President Kennedy do when the CIA showed him photographic evidence that Nikita Khrushchev had placed offensive missiles inside Castro’s Cuba in 1962, which missiles could reach Washington and New York in minutes?
Kennedy naturally felt obliged to confront the Kremlin. America’s national security was at stake. He could not simply acknowledge the threat and do nothing. The Pentagon wanted to bomb the missile sites and perhaps simultaneously invade Cuba. The CIA was on the same page.
Instead, Kennedy chose a more measured approach, a unilateral U.S. Navy blockade of Cuba concurrent with the demand that Khrushchev remove the missiles forthwith. Whitehall was startled by the blockade and the Kremlin hotline was buzzing.
What did Putin do in 2014 when faced with an American-instigated, anti-Russia coup in Ukraine, which had the potential to consolidate NATO’s decades-long push eastward and to isolate Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet headquartered at Sevastopol in Crimea?
Did Washington actually expect the Kremlin to allow its fleet to be cut off from Russia? More importantly, Putin could not sit on his hands, waiting to see if NATO missiles would end up in Ukraine, aimed at Russia. They were already in Poland.
As Russia’s President, Putin would have been derelict if he had done nothing. Putin’s national security team and his military staff would have been enraged—just as the Pentagon and CIA would have been back in 1962 if President Kennedy had not taken steps to remove the missiles from Cuba.
After all, was not Ukraine within Russia’s “near abroad” sphere of influence? Had Ukraine not been a part of the defunct Soviet Union? Wasn’t Ukraine as much a natural sphere of influence for Moscow as the Caribbean had been for Washington in 1962, in fact since the 19th Century Monroe Doctrine?
Like Kennedy, Putin reacted to a perceived threat to his country in his own backyard. Like Kennedy, Putin opted for a careful, calibrated process. He wanted to negotiate a peaceful solution which would defuse the crisis and provide security for both sides. Jack Kennedy, assisted by his brother Robert, succeeded. Putin did not succeed, but not for want of trying.
Putin took the realpolitik gambit of peacefully annexing Crimea, which voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to rejoin Russia. It’s called self-determination. This secured the Black Sea Fleet. Leaders of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, under military attack from Kiev, also asked for protection and to be incorporated into the Russian Federation.
[By the way, when was the last time you heard that Tel Aviv conducted a referendum on the Syrian Golan Heights to ascertain if its Arab and Druze inhabitants wanted annexation by Israel? The territory was annexed in 1974. Washington has officially recognized the land grab and Westerners’s nonstop hypocrisy on Palestine is stupefying.]
Instead, Putin opted to negotiate with Europe and Ukraine aiming at a self-governing arrangement for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions. The idea was to stop the civil war in Ukraine, thereby eliminating a possible Russian armed intervention and a wider war.
Negotiations produced the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements. They were signed, endorsed by the UN Security Council, but not honored by Europe and Ukraine. Minsk II would have defused the crisis completely, prevented the current war, and perhaps led to a wider security treaty for Europe and Russia. It was not Putin who wanted war.
Unfortunately, the Minsk agreements, as we now know, turned out to be a fraud perpetrated by “the West”—that is, by duplicitous, crusading officials in Washington who pull the wires in Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Kiev. The Kremlin had been conned. Germany and France hijacked.
There has been little mention of it in the blinkered mainstream media, whose longtime obsession and assigned task is to demonize Putin and Russia no matter what the circumstances. Alternative media outlets in Europe like RT may soon be banned. Shades of Twitter and Facebook.
So now at the start of a new year, the world faces a precarious predicament in Europe orchestrated by officials in Washington. They and their deluded European collaborators have a helluva nerve placing the entire world at risk to indulge their egos. Diplomacy is out the window. Ideologues are in the saddle.
Here’s how Yale professor Timothy Snyder recently summed up the situation in the scholarly pages of Foreign Affairs:
Russia, an aging tyranny, seeks to destroy Ukraine, a defiant democracy. A Ukrainian victory would confirm the principle of self-rule, allow the integration of Europe to proceed, and empower people of goodwill to return reinvigorated to other global challenges….
Really? Excuse me, professor, but that’s a cartoon. More hokum, distortion, bromides, clichés, cant and nonsense.
No doubt, it is going to be a bumpy flight in 2023.