courtesy of U.S. taxpayers
and their weapons industry beneficiaries.
(U.S. Embassy in Ukraine)
NATO expansion and war profiteering,
the U.S.-Russia standoff over Ukraine
can be resolved...
Another potential scenario is that Russia draws on the Cuban Missile Crisis and positions offensive weapons within the borders of Latin American allies.
Whatever the outcome, the crisis has underscored the perils of a second Cold War between the world's top nuclear powers.
If the path forward is unpredictable, what got us here is easy to trace.
The row over Ukraine is the outgrowth of an aggressive U.S. posture toward Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago, driven by hegemonic policymakers and war profiteers in Washington.
Understanding that background is key to resolving the current impasse, if the Biden administration can bring itself to alter a dangerous course.
U.S. principles vs. power constraints
Russia's central demands - binding guarantees to halt the eastward expansion of NATO, particularly in Ukraine, and to prevent offensive weapons from being stationed near its borders - have been publicly dismissed by the U.S. government as non-starters.
In rejecting Russian concerns, the Biden administration claims that it is upholding "governing principles of international peace and security."
These principles, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says,
The U.S. government's real-world commitment to these principles is non-existent.
For decades, the U.S. has provided critical diplomatic and military cover for Israel's de-facto annexations, which have expanded its borders to three different strips of occupied territory (the West Bank, Gaza, and Syria's Golan Heights).
The U.S. is by far the world leader in dictating policies to other countries, be it,
The Biden administration continues to subjugate sovereign countries to its will, whether it's "neighbors" like,
Biden just recently embraced the longstanding Monroe Doctrine of a U.S. sphere of influence by declaring,
When not making sanctimonious public pronouncements, U.S. officials are quietly able to acknowledge the real principles that guide their actions.
According to the Washington Post, one U.S. official specializing in Russia,
Russia's real aim, this official says, is,
The official added:
If their public statements and actions are any guide, the Biden administration is so far opting for the latter.
Rather than focus on diplomacy, the United States' reliable British client has been trotted out, Iraq WMD dossier-style (or Steele dossier-style, or Syria dirty war-style), to lodge the explosive allegation that Russia is plotting to install a new leader in Ukraine via a coup.
While declaring that the obedient Brits were "Muscular" for shouldering the war-mongering allegation, the New York Times quietly acknowledged that they also "provided no evidence to back up" their claims.
After warning of a "false flag" operation by Russia in Ukraine, the U.S. pulled off a stunt of its own by recalling its embassy personnel out of stated concern for their safety.
In the New York Times, veteran national security correspondent David E. Sanger allows that it is "possible" that Putin's "bottom line in this conflict is straightforward":
On these issues,
Accordingly, Russia could be offered,
In Sanger's view, the real and "complex" issue is not Ukraine's NATO status, but,
Since 2014, Sanger writes, the U.S. and NATO allies have provided,
Russia - for reasons apparently foreign to Sanger - believes that these,
An agreement to address these concerns, an unidentified U.S. official concedes, would be,
Unmentioned by Sanger is that Russia has repeatedly signaled such a willingness, including just last month:
Also unmentioned is that such deployments were previously banned under the INF Treaty, the Cold War-era pact that the Trump administration abandoned in August 2019, to the resounding silence of Democratic lawmakers and allied media outlets more invested in pretending that Trump was a Russian puppet than in addressing his actual Russia policies.
In a bid to preserve some of the INF Treaty's safeguards, Putin immediately offered a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe - a proposal swiftly rejected by both Trump and NATO.
(Trump's response was again duly ignored by Russiagate-crazed media outlets and politicians, for the obvious narrative inconvenience.)
Much like its refusal so far to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal - another critical security pact torn up by Trump - the Biden administration has thus placed itself in a dangerous geopolitical standoff rather than embrace diplomacy around proposals that U.S. officials either deem as reality anyway (Ukraine not joining NATO) or that they were once party to (the Trump-sabotaged INF treaty).
NATO expansion, from the Cold War to a Ukraine coup
If the Biden administration is now willing to accept "real dialogue" over an outcome that "constrains U.S. power" on the Ukraine-Russia border, it will have to eschew guiding U.S. principles since the end of the Cold War.
When he agreed to the reunification of Germany, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was "assured in 1990 that the [NATO] alliance would not expand," Jack Matlock, Reagan and Bush I's ambassador to the Soviet Union, recently noted.
But upon entering office, Bill Clinton broke that pledge and began an expansion spree that has pushed NATO to Russia's borders.
In 2008 - against the reported advice of advisers including Fiona Hill - President George W. Bush backed a NATO declaration calling for Ukraine and Georgia's eventual ascension.
The constant expansion of NATO has led to what the scholar Richard Sakwa calls a "fateful geographical paradox":
Sakwa's maxim undoubtedly applies to Ukraine, where the threat of Russia's neighbor joining a hostile military alliance sparked a war in 2014 that continues today.
The standard narrative of the origins of the current Ukraine crisis, as the New York Times recently claimed, is that Ukrainians revolted in street protests that ousted "pro-Russian leader" Viktor Yanukovych,
In reality, the U.S. backed a coup that overthrew Ukraine's elected government and sabotaged opportunities to avoid further conflict.
The immediate background came in the fall of 2013, when the U.S. and its allies pressured Yanukovych to sign a European Union association agreement that would have curtailed its ties to Russia.
Contrary to how he is now portrayed, Yanukovych was not "pro-Russian", to the point where he even,
To sign the EU deal, Ukraine would have to accept the harsh austerity demands of the IMF, which had publicly criticized Ukraine's,
The agreement also contained a provision calling on Ukraine to adhere to the EU's "military and security" policies,
The EU proposal, the New York Times observed in November 2013, was the centerpiece of its "most important foreign policy initiative":
In the words of Carl Gershman, the then-head of the CIA-tied National Endowment for Democracy, "Ukraine is the biggest prize."
In Gershman's fantasy, Ukraine's entry into the Western orbit would redound to Russia as well.
Although it would have been a boon for DC neoconservatives, accepting the EU's insistence on "increasing the retirement age and freezing pensions and wages" would have meant political suicide for Yanukovych.
Putin capitalized by offering a more generous package of $15 billion in aid and gas subsidies, a deal that contained "no immediate quid pro quo for Russia," the New York Times noted.
To lure Yanukovych, Russia even dropped a proposal, opposed by Ukraine's Maidan protesters, that Ukraine join a Russian-led customs union.
Putin's Ukraine offer, the Times added, was one of,
In the eyes of the Western domineers, the prospect of a Russian "counterweight" was an intolerable act.
The U.S. responded by ramping up support for the Maidan protests in Kiev and helping to sabotage an agreement with Yanukovych to hold new elections.
Any pretense that the U.S. was acting as an honest broker was obliterated in early February 2014 when Russia released a recording of an intercepted a phone call between then-senior Obama official Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
The U.S. diplomats not only selected who would be Ukraine's next Prime Minister - Arseniy Yatsenyuk - but decided to exclude their EU allies from the process.
A major tipping point in the conflict came two weeks later, on February 20th, when nearly 50 Madain protesters were massacred by snipers.
The Ukrainian opposition immediately accused government forces, sparking a series of events that led to Yanukovych's flight from the country two days later.
Exhaustive research by the University of Ottawa's Ivan Katchanovski argues that the massacre was in fact,
Faced with the possibility of losing Russia's most important naval base at Sevastopol to a U.S.-backed coup regime, Putin responded by seizing the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Russia also provided military support to Ukrainians in the country's Donbas region hostile to the new coup government, sparking an ongoing war between the opposing sides.
In Washington, the annexation of Crimea is widely seen as an expansionist act of aggression; even, according to Hillary Clinton, akin to,
In Crimea, Russia had the support of the majority of the population, if polls are to be believed.
The same for the Russian population, across the political spectrum.
(For over 200 years Crimea had been a territory of Russia, until Nikita Khrushchev assigned it to Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union.)
A negotiated solution to the Donbas war has been in place since the signing of the Minsk II accords in 2015, as Anatol Lieven of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft has repeatedly stressed.
The prospect of NATO expansion appears to be the pact's main obstacle to implementation.
Minsk II calls for granting autonomy to the Donbas region in return for its demilitarization.
But Ukraine has,
In Lieven's view, this could change with one critical shift:
War in Ukraine, profit in Washington
As a result of the U.S. drive for yet another NATO-aligned military outpost on Russia's borders, Ukraine has been decimated.
The war in the Donbas has left nearly 14,000 dead.
Ukraine's "conflict with Russia," Denys Kiryukhin of the Wilson Center observes, is one of the major factors that,
The United States' European allies are also feeling the impact of Washington's entanglement with Russia over Ukraine.
The picture is much rosier for those living through the war from Washington.
U.S. arms manufacturers,
Accordingly, these arms manufacturers have made,
At the time, the "chief vehicle" for their cause was a group called the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO.
The group's president, Bruce L. Jackson, carried out double duty:
As Andrew Cockburn of Harper's noted in 2015, Jackson's committee was firmly bipartisan, ranging,
(Craig later became embroiled in a Ukraine corruption scandal, though he was acquitted on all charges.)
Explaining his committee's staying power in Washington, Jackson told Cockburn:
Nor do the profits that result.
Reporting in July 2017 that military stocks had reached "all-time highs," CNBC noted that,
So is the ongoing war in Ukraine, where the U.S. has shipped $2.7 billion in weapons since 2014, along with 200,000 pounds of fresh "lethal aid" in recent weeks and more promised via new spending bills.
U.S. government officials across the spectrum routinely laud these weapons shipments as,
Putting aside the guiding imperial and profit-driven motives, the main impact of pouring U.S. military hardware into the Donbas conflict is to prolong it.
Writing in Foreign Policy, two analysts with the Pentagon-tied think tank Rand Corporation, Samuel Charap and Scott Boston, argue that,
The authors also dispel another widely accepted bipartisan myth, that the U.S. has been helping Ukraine resist "Russian aggression."
In reality, Russian-backed militants in the east,
Although Russia has armed and trained its Donbas allies,
The Russian military has,
The authors also remind their U.S. audience of another overlooked reality: the costs of a full-blown war in Ukraine,
Should an insurgency develop, as the Biden administration is mulling, the conflict will reach a stage where,
Those promoting such an outcome have made clear that they value NATO expansion and the attendant arms industry windfall over the lives of Ukrainians, Russians, and any others placed in the crossfire.
The Biden administration can avoid ending many more lives if it can interrupt hegemony and war profiteering for a different set of principles...