Questioning the official narrative invites neo-McCarthyite slurs ranging from Putin pawn and Kremlin apologist to Russian appeaser and even, traitor. However, I’ve always spoken my mind and will continue to do so.
First, anyone seeking objective information about the war’s context and background won’t find it in The New York Times, on CNN or any other mainstream media source, all of which are simply stenographers to official power. It doesn’t excuse Putin’s aggressive and egregious miscalculation to cite the quarter century of US/NATO provocations and rejections of Russian security concerns that created the conditions for this conflict. A plentitude of experts in and out of government warned that NATO’s relentless expansion eastward toward Russia’s border was a brazen, reckless act that would virtually guarantee a military response.
After Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Washington promised Russia that NATO would not advance “an inch to the east” but then turned around and did exactly that by adding Eastern European countries like Poland, Latvia and Estonia. Several times, Russia made it unequivocally clear that its red line, never to be crossed, would be offering Ukraine membership in NATO. In response, the US kept taunting Russia and refusing to rule out Ukraine’s NATO membership.
In 1997, 50 prominent US foreign policy experts signed an open letter to President Bill Clinton, saying “We believe that the current U.S. led effort to expand NATO…is a policy error of historical proportions that would unsettle European security.” George Kennan, the dean of America’s Russian expert and father of US containment strategy, wrote that “…expanding NATO would be be the most fateful error of American foreign policy in the entire post-Cold War era… I think it’s a tragic mistake.” Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has long cautioned against U.S. meddling in Ukrainian affairs. And in 2000, William Burns, former US ambassador to Russia and current CIA director, wrote in his memoir, “Back Channel,” that it wasn’t only Putin but “Ukraine’s entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elites,” all of whom would see it as “a direct challenge to Russian interests.” Indeed, Russia may have seen this as the first step in U.S. “regime change” strategy.
In 2008, at the Bucharest summit, Germany and France adamantly opposed granting NATO membership to Ukraine because they knew, implicitly, that it was foolish and dangerous to incite Russia. Due to the fact that the US totally runs the NATO show, they buckled in the face of Washington’s pressure and the final statement promised membership for Ukraine.
Second, in 2013, Ukraine became a total American project when it was widely reported that Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland had bragged about the U.S spending $5 billion dollars to support the opposition and select the new pro-U.S. head of government. The new regime was chock full of ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis, some of whom were fully integrated into the armed forces and others of whom assumed seats in the new Parliament.
Again, it doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion, but Russ Belland, the foremost expert on Ukraine’s long Nazi past, reminds us that the 14th Waffen SS Division insignia can still be seen on some demonstrators and Ukrainian soldiers. In any event, a civil war followed in which 14,000 pro-Russian Ukrainian died before a temporary truce was reached. Washington poured weapons and military advisers into Ukraine, joint exercises took place between U.S. and Ukrainian forces and Washington appeared to green light Ukraine’s NATO membership.
One can only imagine how the United States would respond if, say China, were to sign a “Mutual Security Pact” with Mexico and then began making preparations to install missiles with multiple nuclear warheads that could reach the East coast of the United States, including Washington, D.C. How long before the U.S. would launch a military response? Overnight? Remember the Cuba Missile Crisis in 1962? In other words, if Ukraine is free to make its own choices, does that not apply equally to Mexico or Canada?
Further, I’m guessing that very few Americans are aware that not only has the U.S. been training Ukrainians in Ukraine since 1993, but last Fall, long before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 of this year, Ukrainian armed forces were being trained on American soil to operate missile systems at the John Stennis U.S. Space Command Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. At a minimum, shouldn’t this raise questions about what the U.S. was hoping would transpire in Ukraine? Is it implausible to suggest that Washington sought to poke the Russian bear in the eye, entangle it in a “new Afghanistan” and then hope to bleed and debilitate it before the U.S. pivoted toward China? In early February, before Russia acted, Army Reserve Lt. Colonel and former Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard, said that “The Biden administration wanted Russia to invade Ukraine.” Put another way, Ukraine is a U.S. proxy war with Russia in which Washington will prolong the fight to the last Ukrainian.
Finally, after a negotiated settlement in Ukraine, the U.S. will attempt to ignite Cold War, Phase 2 and Ukraine is the precursor to erecting a new iron curtain encircling Russia and China. However, the cohesion now existing between Europe and the U.S. will be short lived. Mutually beneficial trade (especially in energy) and development with Russia and China will prove irresistible. As economic analyst Michael Hudson has pointed out, there is a limit to how long European business interests will forgo the immense opportunity costs — the costs of lost opportunities — of trade and investment in Russia as the price for their continued obedience to U.S. global ambitions. In addition, Europeans will resent the fact that NATO is now an extension of the Pentagon and its taxpayers will rebel against the cost of increased defense budgets.
In that vein, all available evidence suggests that the United States will be eclipsed by China as soon as 2030 when its economy will be 60 percent larger than the United States. The period leading up to this rough demarcation line will be exceedingly dangerous because it’s far from certain that the U.S. psyche can cope with this diminution in stature and peacefully accept a multipolar world. And nowhere is this more in doubt than in the Pacific in places like Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Given that China realizes that its economic might must be equaled by military might, Beijing is now militarily invincible in Asia. Further, its trade and development linkages are extending to Latin America, Africa and India. France and Germany already have extensive trade ties with China. Unless the United States ceases efforts to regain global superiority and accepts being a normal country rather than the world’s “exceptional country” it will be marginalized and ordinary citizens will pay an enormous price.
Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College in Bethlehem. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
First published in The Smirking Chimp on 27 April 2022.