The cat’s out of the bag
Well, the cat has been let out of the bag. Washington is into the Ukrainian struggle to “weaken Russia”. Here is how the New York Times – a newspaper that is relentlessly pro-Ukrainian – put it:
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III declared Monday at the end of a stealth visit to Ukraine that America’s goal is to see Russia so “weakened” that it would no longer have the power to invade a neighboring
To this end, there is now a “classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine”. This effort has resulted in the killing of, among others, Russian generals. That “classified effort” makes the United States a de facto fighting ally of Ukraine in its war with Russia. Ipso facto, every member of the US government, be they military or civilian, is now a legitimate target for a Russian counter strike.
Austin went on to acknowledge that there is “a transformation of the conflict, from a battle over control of Ukraine to one that pits Washington more directly against Moscow”.
In truth, there has been no “transformation”. What we are witnessing in Ukraine is the increasingly dangerous finale of Washington, and its allies, to force Russia to either (1) allow itself to be surrounded by hostile NATO countries, or (2) defend itself in a way that Russia is cast as an evil power that must be “weakened” and contained. In other words,the war in Ukraine is a successful set-up, an act of “entrapment” on the part of the United States and its allies, including Volodymyr Zelensky. Millions of Ukrainian civilians are tragically caught in the middle – innocent victims.
The history I
I do not say this because I am “pro-Russian” (though I do admit that I am angry enough to be described as anti-Washington at this historical moment), nor am I putting forth excuses for Russian acts of destruction, but rather because the history of Western behaviour is hard to read in any other way:
1. In 1990 – a year or so before the demise of the Soviet Union – Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to the unification of Germany. He did so after being told by both Secretary of State James Baker and Chancellor of West Germany Helmut Kohl that NATO would not expand “an inch” beyond Germany’s eastern border.
2. Right after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1992, Boris Yeltsin, the president of Russia, came to the US and addressed Congress. In his address he said that the people of Russia extended their hands to the people of the United States so as to build a better world.
3. What sort of answer did he get? February 1992: He got the Wolfowitz doctrine, followed by the Bush Senior doctrine:
Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
Russia was subsequently seen as and treated as a second-rate power – or as Boris Yeltsin rather crudely put it, “We are not Haiti!”
4. 1996: President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright decided to expand NATO eastwards, incorporating Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. This was done under the guise of spreading democracy.
George Kennan, the intellectual father of America’s containment policy during the Cold War, warned in a 5 February 1997 letter to the New York Times:
Something of the highest importance is at stake here. And perhaps it is not too late to advance a view that, I believe, is not only mine alone but is shared by a number of others with… extensive experience in Russian matters. The view, bluntly stated, is that expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold-War era.
This expansion also constituted the breaking of the promise given to Gorbachev in 1990. Though the Russian leadership did not react immediately, it would never trust the Western leaders again.
This is where the road to the war in Ukraine began.
5. In the year 2000 Putin came to power. He took a series of bold diplomatic steps:
He applied to be part of NATO and the EU. This, he argued, would guarantee peace in Europe and also create a strong organisation to encourage world peace.
Both applications were rejected. In terms of the EU, Putin was told that Russia was “too big” to join.
6. NATO expansion would continue in steps – 2004, 2009, 2017, and – until it bordered Russia in the north with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
7. In March 2007, Putin addressed the annual Munich Security Conference.
NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders, and represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?
It was a warning, though none of the Western leaders listened.
8. Russian patience had worn out by 2008. The leaders of the bordering country of Georgia had shown an interest in Western economic and military ties. Russia cut this short by invading the country in 2008 and installing a pro-Russian regime. One can see this action as a signal to the West that it must halt its advance. There would be no more verbal warnings.
9. Despite all, when 9/11 occurred Putin offered full cooperation with the US “war on terrorism” and gave material aid to US efforts in northern Afghanistan. Putin sees terrorism as a mutual threat to Russia and the West.
Russia got nothing for this from the US, not even public
10. During Barack Obama’s second term (2012-16) his administration also ignored Russia’s concerns when it assisted what amounted to a coup in Ukraine. In both 2013 and 2014, US agents assisted demonstrators in Kiev in the overthrow of a legally elected pro-Russia, albeit corrupt, president. The pro-Western administration put in its place, which talked of joining NATO and the EU, constituted, as it had in Georgia, a direct provocation to Russia. Putin described the Ukrainian situation as an “existential threat”. This led to Russia seizing Crimea.
11. Continued Western wooing of Ukraine, including an informal relationship with NATO, led to a Russian military buildup and the eventual invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The history II
I am well aware that the State Department has a long-running counter-history to the one given here. It is based on the assertion that the spread of NATO is the same as the spread of democracy – despite the fact that some NATO countries are far from democratic. And, in addition, Russia has never had anything to fear from NATO.
This is hard to believe. Western perceptions of the Soviet Union/Russia have been hostile ever since the Marxist Russian Revolution of 1917. At that time, American troops landed for a short time at both Archangel and Vladivostok. In both cases they directly or indirectly supported counter-revolutionary efforts. The only exception to a history of continuous, ideologically-fed animosity came during World War II, when the two countries, the US and the USSR, had the same enemy in Nazi Germany. After the war, animosity was almost immediately re-established with the Cold War. By the time the USSR was voluntarily dismantled in December 1991, US enmity was habitually focused on the Russian Federation.
As of 28 April, 2,899 civilians had been killed in Ukraine. Who killed them? Well, for sure, most of these deaths can be attributed to Russian actions. Nonetheless, it is not quite right to label the conflict as “Putin’s war”. Why is that so? You have to contextualise the situation – the history – and then push your way through the propaganda bubble to get the answer. That is what I have tried to do here. And from this effort, the reader can draw his or her own conclusion as to whether Russia is solely to blame for this disaster.