Photo by Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock
In recent weeks both US and NATO have been stumbling toward confrontation with Russia over whether the Ukraine will be allowed membership in NATO. While there are various secondary issues on the negotiating table—deployment of US troops into Poland, Baltics and Romania and Russian natural gas delivery to Germany, among other issues—make no mistake: NATO membership is what the developing conflict is fundamentally about. As one of the main media vehicles of US imperialism, the New York Times, recently blared in its front page headline: “U.S. Won’t Bow to Russia Over Who Can Join NATO”. (February 3, 2022).
Background to Today’s Conflict
The pending conflict over Ukraine NATO membership has intensified recently, events have been leading to this at least since the January 2005 so-called Orange Revolution in Ukraine when emergent right wing forces rode a wave of popular protest over the previous November 2004 national elections—and even go back further to the breakup of the former USSR in the early 1990s during which the US promised Russia that NATO would not be expanded to Eastern Europe, the Baltics, or the Caucasus.
In November 2004 the pro-Russia candidate, Viktor Yanukovich won 39% of the vote; but the anti-Russia candidate, supported by growing fascist forces, also won 39%. Yanukovich’s support was heavily concentrated in east and south Ukraine, while Yushchenko’s in western Ukraine. As the vote was underway, and not yet concluded, Yushchenko called for mass street demonstrations, then immediately declared himself president as mass protestors threatened to assault the Ukraine Parliament. In front of his massed supporters in Kyiv, also a day after the election, Yushchenko unilaterally took the ‘oath of president’ in the Parliament in which only his supporters were present and therefore lacked a quorum to legitimize the November vote results. He then immediately called for continued mass strikes, protests and sit-ins to force the acceptance of his declared victory and questionable ‘oath’.
Yushckenko’s declaration was supported by the Central Electoral Commission which, it was later determined, withheld significant regional votes from being counted and ran a separate computer tally of the votes. In order to avoid growing political conflict in the streets, the Ukraine Supreme Court intervened in early December and voided the November election in which Yanukovich had won a narrow popular vote victory by less than 1%, and declared a run-off election for late December 2004. The same Central Election Commission tallied 52% vote for Yushchenko vs. 44% for Yanukovich, as several minor parties either abstained or threw their support to Yushchenko.
The next election in 2010 saw Yanukovich win back again,in an election international observers declared was fair. Rising right wing forces did not accept the 2010 results, however. In 2014 another uprising was staged, focused in the capital city of Kyiv occurred and this time far more violent than in January 2005. This time, February 2014, fascist forces murdered more than 100 in the streets.
The insurrection of 2014 was clearly organized and funded by US imperialist interests. Manipulating forces behind the uprising was US undersecretary of State for Eastern Europe, Virginia Nuland. In a pubic speech in the Ukraine following the uprising of 2014, at which Nuland unbeknownst to her at the time was quoted by the press, she bragged the US has spent $5 billion funding various grass roots movements behind the insurrection that toppled ‘fairly elected’ pro-Russia leader, Yanukovich.
At the core of those movements were largely self-declared fascist organizations that had grown and mobilized since 2005. Using classic fascist violence, including assassinations and widespread shootings of police and government officials in Kyiv (as well as subsequent multiple assassinations in Ukraine’s second important city, Odessa), the US-backed fascist forces—along with their political representatives—took control of the Ukraine government that February 2014.
In the wake of the insurrection and take over, Virginia Nuland was appointed by the new right wing Ukraine government as ‘economic Czar’. Nuland had formerly been an owner of a well known US Chicago financial firm before being appointed as under-secretary of State for the region. After she became ‘economic Czar’, US investors began to pour into Ukraine—including relatives of well-known US politicians like Vice President Joe Biden—and took up positions on various Ukrainian company boards of directors. US economic imperialism now penetrated deeply into the economic infrastructure of Ukraine.
Russia’s response in 2014 to the insurrection of 2014 and the deposing of ‘fairly elected’ Yanukovich, was to provide support to the heavily pro-Russian eastern provinces. As it became clear in 2014 that outright declared fascist organization members took over key positions in the Parliamen and government, Russia sent military forces to take back the strategic Crimea peninsula that housed Russia’s black sea naval forces. Crimea had always been part of Russia, but was ‘given’ to the Ukraine in the 1950s by the USSR in a government provincial reorganization. In 2016 further conflict erupted in the eastern Ukraine provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk as Ukrainian fascist-led military forces attempted to take back the provinces but failed in the wake of Russian military support to the region. The US and NATO then imposed sanctions on Russia its response.
It’s important to note that while these events from 2004 to 2016 were occurring in the Ukraine, US war hawks pushed for, and achieved, expansion of NATO into East Europe—contrary to assurances made to Russia by the Clinton administration in the 1990s. The same year, 2004, as the first right wing uprising occurred in Ukraine, the US expanded NATO into seven East European countries and the three Baltic nations, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. NATO forces were now located less than 400 miles from Moscow.
In 2008 US political factions in government, led by US Senator John McCain, signaled and encouraged then Georgia President, Mikhail Saakashvili, to invade South Ossetia on its northern border. Georgia had been courting US and demanding NATO membership since at least 2003, when it sent significant troops to join the US invasion of Iraq. Georgian military forces invaded the province of South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. Russia drove them back and entered Georgia itself a week later. It later withdrew and military conflict ending October 2008.
In 2009 and 2010 the US announced plans to deploy advanced missile systems of NATO into Poland and Romania, which were completed by 2016. The US also deployed ship-based advanced Tomahawk offensive missile systems on warships it sent into the Black Sea. Both the Romania land-based and US ship-based missiles were of the advanced ‘Aegis’ type, capable of rearming with nuclear warheads on very short notice. If Russia intervened in the US election of 2016, it certainly had some justification.
Russia responded angrily in 2017 and 2018 to the advanced US missile deployments of 2016, declaring they violated the then Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) missile treaty signed with the US in 1987, in which both sides had agreed not to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in eastern Europe or by Russia on its western border. In an unprecedented direct public response, Russia further declared it could and would destroy the missile systems in Romania if necessary. In reply, the US followed up with deployment of a Patriot anti-missile systems in Romania.
In July 2019 the US formally withdrew from the 1987 intermediate missile treaty that Reagan and Gorbachev had negotiated. During the 2020 US election year and Covid health & economic crisis further escalations more or less froze in place.
It is in this context of events in Ukraine from 2004 to 2016, the deployment of US missile systems in Eastern Europe and in the black sea thereafter, and US withdrawal from the INF treaty in 2019 that the recent events of US-NATO expansion into Ukraine should be understood. History and context mean everything. Explanations based just on immediate events are easily manipulated by mainstream media and political forces behind it.
US/NATO vs. Russia: Ukraine 2021-22
Once Biden was elected and Democrats were in power once again in 2021 political forces in Eastern Europe’s NATO allies and within the newly elected Zelensky government in the Ukraine began pushing for more US advanced armaments and for Ukraine’s admission into NATO. By late summer 2021, aware of the new pressure to allow Ukraine into NATO and the greater sympathy of the Democrats to sanction Russia compared to Trump (whom they, the Russians, had largely neutralized for reasons still unknown), Russia responded to the new NATO inclusion initiative.
Putin wrote an extended position paper in late summer 2021 that more or less drew a line in the sand so far as Ukraine inclusion in NATO was concerned. He noted in particular the fact that the US and other NATO governments declared in 2008 that Ukraine “will become members of NATO” in the future without specifying exactly when, and that US/NATO has never withdrawn or repudiated that statement. That fact, plus the advanced and potentially nuclear armed missile deployments in Poland, Romania, and on the Black Sea in US ships constituted a clear threat to Russia. The US pulling out of Afghanistan and the middle east, while bolstering its sea-based nuclear submarine forces in Australia, was a clear signal that the US empire was clearly shifting its military resources and preparing for new conflicts with Russia and China. A NATO Ukraine would mean moving of Romanian and Black Sea US missiles north into Ukraine. With similar NATO forces in the Baltics, Russia would be surrounded and missiles just a few minutes from Moscow.
At the same time in late 2021 uprisings erupted in Belarus and Kazakhstan which Russia might easily consider to portend future 2014-Kyiv like insurrections in these border states. Another ‘Ukraine’-like coup in Belarus or Kazakhstan would mean Russia would be even further encircled. Russia intervened to assist their governments thus far and put down the protests. Future such insurrections in these states, however, are not out of the question. And it is probable that Russia and Putin have interpreted these uprisings as US CIA assisted—not unlike that of 2014 in Ukraine.
It is easy to see why Putin and Russia felt themselves increasingly encircled by NATO in East Europe and Baltics, given US instigated and backed forces in Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan destabilizing its frontiers. A NATO Ukraine would in effect strategically outflank Russia and close the ring on them. NATO in effect would accomplish what Nazi Germany could not. Social memories of the German Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941-42 run deep in Russia. It is often under-estimated by western political advisers—and especially by the so-called non-military ‘experts’ advisers to US presidents who have a long history of advocating US into military adventures abroad—most notably Vietnam, Iraq, Libya and Syria. One might ask “would Russia allow NATO and the US to enter and ‘take’ Ukraine—after it had lost 10 million of its citizens to deny the same to the Nazis?” While this is not a mode of thought among US advisers, it is no doubt a central consideration within Russian circles—military and civilian.
It is true that Putin and Russia began a build up of military resources on its Ukrainian border. But thus far it has been a ‘measured’ one. It is mostly military hardware that has been moved to forward bases with limited troops to support it. Most of the alleged 175,000 troops at the border, trumpeted by Biden and US mainstream media, are not in forward border positions. They are in some cases hundreds of kilometers within Russia at their regular bases. A truer signal of intent to invade Ukraine will occur once support battalions move forward to the border: that is medical, ammunition, food and similar logistical troops and supplies. That doesn’t appear to have occurred as yet, however. Russia’s military movements so far have been designed apparently to get the attention of Biden and the US to bring them to the negotiating table. And in early January it worked.
Biden released what the media is calling a ‘Transparency Mechanism’ offer. In it the US offered to allow the Russians to verify if its missile systems in Poland and Romania were defensive or not. But in exchange, the US wanted Russia to reciprocate by allowing it access to Russian border missile sites—one of which would be the Russian facilities in the Kaliningrad, Russia region, a small area sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic sea coast. The US also offered in the ‘Mechanism’ that it would not permanently deploy offensive missiles in Ukraine—suggesting it might have the right to do so ‘temporarily’ however that might be defined. The real kicker of the Mechanism offer, however, was Russian had to withdraw from eastern Ukraine and Crimea as part of any deal. It was obviously a non-starter but gave the US cover that it was putting a proposal on the table.
As Biden made the offer he announced the US was sending another 5,000 US troops to eastern Europe, no doubt to placate Poland and the NATO Baltic states now demanding even more advanced NATO arms. Biden reiterated his oft-repeated threat since December that if Russia invaded there would be new massive economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies worldwide. He didn’t, and hasn’t yet, defined what exactly that might be but clearly it suggests sanctions of a new nature not just more severe. (That could include, in this writer’s opinion, denying Russia to the US controlled SWIFT international payments system that would prevent Russia from selling its oil on global markets.) At the same time the US Congress has rushed to pass new emergency aid and military supplies to Ukraine. And US ‘war hawks’ have demanded US sanctions be placed on Russia even before it invades. Somehow they think that is a deterrent, instead of a provocation.
Throughout January 2022 Biden and the US media pounded away the message that invasion is ‘imminent’. This premature declaration, often repeated, has disrupted social stability within Ukraine itself, resulting in its president, Zelensky, to go so far as to publicly contradict Biden’s message. The US followed up the ‘imminent invasion’ theme with having the British release an alleged document showing Russian invasion plans (One wonders why it is that the Brits typically release such politically salacious but unverified ‘reports’—i.e. dossiers, false flags, etc.) on behalf of their US big brother?). In the interim the pressure grows on Ukrainian politicians as near panic by Ukrainians themselves takes root among the populace.
On February 1, Putin predictably rejected the ‘Transparency Mechanism’ proposal and publicly stated he believed the US and NATO were attempting to provoke Russia into a war in Ukraine. In a clear appeal to western Europe NATO countries (which, unlike the US, had most to lose economically and politically from a war in Ukraine), Putin added he expected “dialogue to continue”. That set off a flurry of announcements and visits by heads of state in the UK, France, Germany and Italy. About to get sacked by his own party in the UK, Boris Johnson ran off to Kyiv for some photo ops. France’s Macron announced had had telephone conversations with Putin and planned to meet him directly. So did Germany’s newly elected chancellor, Olaf Shultz.
Putin meanwhile flew off to China to meet with President Xi during the opening of the winter Olympics. Both released a direct joint statement accusing the US of aggressive military moves in the Pacific and Ukraine that would severely destabilize global peace and status quo.
At latest report, the media war in the west continues to intensify, with the Biden administration leaking a report that suggested Russia had plans to fake a ‘false flag’ operation as a prelude to invasion. In a like response, the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, in turn leaked some US/NATO plans in the works.
The preceding events and moves by both sides around the Ukraine today are reminiscent of how, in August 1914, both sides kept raising the stakes, in what appeared at first as small inconsequential moves but which then accelerated, grew increasingly threatening, until eventually resulting in military conflict and the 1st World War. Today in the Ukraine both sides circle each other, like boxers coming into the ring in the first round, testing and feinting, looking for weaknesses, sizing each other up, trying to determine what the other’s opening move might be. Should one slip or fall by accident or the other unknowingly signal a blow is coming, it might very well precipitate a general exchange between both.
10 Reasons Why US Elites May Want Russia to Invade Ukraine
Much of mainstream media continues to focus on why Russia is about to invade Ukraine. It refuses to consider the fact there are nonetheless significant advantages for the US in provoking Russia to invade Ukraine. The US media, the Biden administration, and US war hawks in Congress say they are trying to discourage Putin and Russia from invading. But what they say and what they do are not the same thing. Ample evidence suggests the US and NATO want a confrontation, so long as it’s a proxy war fought between Russia and Ukraine that they can stand by, feed the conflagration with arms, and in the process achieve other US-NATO gains. Just what might these other objectives of US/NATO be?
Here are at least 10 reasons why US political elites of both parties, war hawks and military-industrial complex capitalists favor a Russian invasion of Ukraine:
- Reunite NATO and strengthen US hegemony over it once again
In recent years—and especially since Trump—certain members in NATO have questioned whether the US is as reliable a partner to the alliance as it once was in decades past. Nations like France, and now Germany, have had growing doubts. Voices have risen within the EU that it should go its own way with its own defense and strategy. China has made major economic inroads to the EU NATO states. Europe and China are now either first or second biggest export/import traders with each other. Key Europe state leaders are very nervous about the US leading them into a conflict in Ukraine that could have very serious effects on their economy, at the very least, and at a time Europe’s economy continues to struggle to jump start a recovery from the past two years Covid precipitated recession. The US’s track record in the middle east is giving them pause: it achieved little, left the area in shambles, and just pulled out to shift its focus on China. The European NATO allies, moreover, are quite split among themselves. The East Europeans as recent additions to NATO follow the US lead in hope of more arms and troops. Big players like France and Germany not so much so. If a US provocation of conflict in Ukraine goes poorly, the risks—political and economic—for western Europe NATO states are high.
- Get Germany to cancel the Nordstream2 Russian Gas Pipeline; get Europe to buy US gas instead; increase US natural gas exports to Europe and thereby create supply shortage in US to justify US domestic gas price hikes & US profits
Germany is particularly uncertain about following the US lead into another quagmire in Ukraine. Its new chancellor, Olaf Shultz, is especially nervous about the prospect. There is significant public opposition to becoming embroiled in Ukraine, even indirectly. And German capitalists are split as well over the fate of the Nordstream2 natural gas pipeline from Russia. Germany desperately needs the supply. Russia’s gas is significantly less costly than would be purchasing natural gas from the US. For years now the US has been pressuring Germany to halt Norstream2 and buy liquefied natural gas from the US—at higher prices and requiring Germany as well to build highly expensive new port facilities to import the US gas. US oil corporations want to sell the gas, to offload a US glut of natural gas supply. That would bring not only profits from more sales to Germany, but create shortages of supply in the US that would enable US corporations to raise prices in the US domestic market as well. The US gas corps—mostly owned by the big oil corporations—will enjoy a win-win profit. Behind the scenes in the conflict in Ukraine is the looming gray presence of US oil companies—who have had their hand in just about every American military adventure since the 1960s.
- Create excuse to send still more troops & advanced weaponry to Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) & East Europe (Poland, Romania)
There are political forces in the US that want to arm Poland, Romania, and the Baltic countries to the hilt, including stationing nuclear weapons in their countries. Governments in the region are more than happy to bloc with these US war hawks. It means new massive funding from the US, more US arms and troops, and a boost to their economies (and politicians’ pockets as well no doubt).
- Obtain more economic concessions from Ukraine for US business in exchange for more and better US/NATO arms
The US empire does not provide aide without a cost. US investors and corporations have already, posts-2014, penetrated deeply into the Ukraine economy. They have funded, acquired, and otherwise controlled a significant number of former all Ukrainian companies in key sectors of the economy. Biden’s son is not the only next generation representative of the US political elite (from both parties) to sit on Ukraine company boards of directors. As the US provides even more funds and weapons to Ukraine, it will exact a price in return. It will deepen further its influence over the Ukraine economy and banking system. Ukrainian elites will more than welcome them, since the US form of economic empire integrates the colonial elites by sharing a big piece of the economic pie with them.
- Grow US political support to go after Moldova to drive out Russian supporters & install US puppet regime over entire country
It is a certainty that should military conflict erupt in Ukraine, the US and its field intelligence services (CIA, State, etc.) will move on Moldova as well in some manner. Moldova is the small state located between southwest Ukraine and Romania. For years it has had an uneasy truce between Russian backed forces running half of the country and pro-western the other half. The US will attempt to change this and turn the country to full pro-western hegemony.
- Justify more US effort & funding to try to destabilize Belarus & Kazakhstan
It is naïve to think that US intelligence and related forces are deeply involved in the recent public demonstrations and protests in both Belarus and Kazakhstan, the latter just weeks ago as tensions have risen in the Ukraine. At a minimum, the US is testing the extent of anti-Russian opposition in these countries, which are closely aligned economically and politically with Russia. Russia has helped these governments put down the demonstrations, some of which as in Kazakhstan, were especially violent uprisings. Should the US ‘turn’ Ukraine fully toward NATO it is certain the US will intensify its efforts to destabilize Belarus and Kazakhstan on Russia’s borders. They will be the next ‘Ukraine-like’ targets, following the template for Ukraine that began with 2014 and now culminating in 2022.
- Provide major foreign policy distraction for Democrat party before November 2022 midterms
One cannot discount the potential advantages for the sitting president and party (Democrats) of a foreign policy issue such as Ukraine. It allows Biden and the party to ‘look tough’ in an election year, which always seems to add support for the party that ‘gets tough with Russia’, so long as it doesn’t lead to direct conflict with the US. Ukraine is a classic US ‘proxy war’ possibility—the kind it prefers to fight at a distance on the ground of another country (Ukraine) with its troops and/or under the cover of NATO forces as well in this case.
- Get Congress to approve a further increase in US defense budget in addition to $778B
The US wars in the middle east are over. It will take time to build up new technological weaponry and forces to confront China in Asia. The US deal to provide Australia with latest US nuclear subs is just one such example. A proxy war in the Ukraine serves as a convenient interim excuse not to reduce defense spending benefiting the US military-industrial complex (MIC)—and actually raise it still more. The US defense spending is clearly out of control. Pentagon spending alone is now $778 billion, and continues to rise even after the US withdrawal from the middle east. (Total US defense spending is well over $1 trillion a year when other departments of government are included as well: Energy, State, AEC, Homeland Security, CIA, NSA, DARPA, etc.) The MIC never wastes time encouraging the US to get into another conflict once it ends one in order to prevent defense spending cuts post-war. Once the USSR imploded in the late-eighties/early nineties the military bete noir became Saddam Hussein. That fueled the 1991 first Gulf War and continued war spending thereafter and turned US attention to the middle east. The US intervention in Somalia in the 1990s and Balkans kept it going. The next convenient enemy was the ‘Terrorist Threat’ in wake of 9-11 attack in the US. That fueled defense and war spending still further over the next two decades, including wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and the US proxy war in Yemen. Now the US has withdrawn from the middle east direct wars, it needs a new enemy to keep the war spending going. It will take time to build up China as the target. In the interim, however, Ukraine and Russia will do nicely to keep Congress flowing dollars to the US military-industrial complex war making machine.
- Excuse to go after pro-Russian supporters: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba again
A protracted conflict in Ukraine, funded and supported by the US and NATO allies in East Europe, could eventually lead to a spread of the conflict to other ‘proxy’ nations. For Russia that means Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Given a war in Ukraine, war hawks in the US will no doubt find justification to go after these countries with renewed destabilization efforts by US intelligence and even perhaps special ops forces.
10.Test effectiveness of latest US weaponry against Russian forces & Russian weaponry effectiveness against US without having to directly confront Russia; get Russia to reveal state of its cyber capability
Proxy wars provide a good excuse to test new weaponry of the US in a third country battlefield. That means not only testing how well offensive US weapons perform against Russian, but how well Russian weapons perform against US defenses. Weaknesses inevitably appear, permitting the correction and upgrading of the weaponry for potential future use elsewhere. The US especially is interested in testing its cybersecurity weaponry while getting Russia to reveal the extent of much of its capability. Another area of interest is to test how well US anti-armor missiles perform and how well US/NATO missiles perform against Russian anti-missile systems (like its S-500).
All the above constitute advantages for the US should a direct conflict occur in the Ukraine against Russian forces. Ukrainians will pay the human and economic price. The US and its corporations will benefit economically and strategically. Europe will be caught in between, uncertain as to the economic effects of a conflict on it or the great political risks should the conflict not go well.
The behavior of US interests the last two months increasingly suggests it is the US that favors an open conflict in the Ukraine. For the US, it’s win-win situation in the event of an open conflict. There is much to be gained strategically, politically at home, and economically: re-establishing its unchallenged hegemony over NATO; driving Russia out of Europe’s economy and making Europe even more dependent economically on US resources instead or Russia; deepening US influence and control over Ukraine’s economy and government; feeding US war hawks demands to destabilize other countries which, like Ukraine, also border Russia; resurrect spending and operations targeting Latin America friends of Russia; create justifications in Congress to spend even more on US defense and war in the interim until the bigger, longer term buildup and military spending targeting China can come on line; and test in a real theater of operations the effectiveness of both US defensive and offensive weaponry against a sophisticated opponent like Russia.
Time will reveal whether Russia and Putin also favor an open conflict in Ukraine—or whether the western media is exaggerating the Russian threat and beating the drums of ‘imminent invasion’ to serve the interests of US and NATO.
Longer term, Russia may have no alternative but to invade should the US play its ‘final card’ and declare to bring Ukraine into NATO. The US says it has no such intention. But if so, why does it refuse to withdraw its declaration of a decade ago that Ukraine in NATO is the goal at some point in the future? Is the future now? Should the Ukraine be allowed into NATO it is ‘game over’ for Russia strategically for decades to come. Similar developments like Ukraine eventually would occur in Belarus and Kazakhstan and likely Moldova. Calls and efforts to bring them too into NATO would similarly follow. Russia will have been outflanked. It will be thereafter now more easily intimidated. Surrounded by NATO states everywhere, what likely would follow would be full scale nuclear disarmament.
This writer believes therefore that preventing NATO from entering Ukraine is a ‘red line’ for Putin and Russia. If pushed into a corner with no retreat or way out, it is quite possible Russia may see no alternative to invading. That’s not on the immediate agenda. But that’s not to say it will never be.
Dr. Jack Rasmus is author of ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press, 2020 and the forthcoming ‘The Viral Economy’ latter in 2022. He blogs at http://jackrasmus.com. His website is: http://kyklosproductions.com . He hosts the weekly radio show, Alternative Visions, on the Progressive Radio Network and tweets at @drjackrasmus on daily economic and political events.
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