More On: Putin
Biden was so preoccupied with the Ukraine conflict that he missed Putin's progress in other important places
Responsible diplomacy is anticipating how other regimes will react to perceived threats—and acting to avert wars by recognizing and addressing these views. The US appears to be more concerned in virtue signaling.
After being duped into the Iraq war in 2003, the American public vowed it had learned its lesson. True, it later dropped the ball by supporting the Libyan intervention, which was preceded by lies, and by supporting the Syrian government's intervention in the Syrian civil war (or at least did not object), despite the fact that the US sided with the very Sunni extremists it had been fighting in Iraq just a few years before. However, these were admittedly obscure battles, made all the more so by the Western media's blatantly biased coverage, which repeated apparent claims about looming massacres and staged chemical weapons strikes.
However, in Europe, where the US had extensive military alliance commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and where the US population should have been ostensibly more informed and less susceptible to manipulation, it has been disappointing to see the American public once again so easily led down the path of supporting a war that never needed to be fought—and never would have been fought—but for our government's policies.
And, as with the rash rush to war in Iraq, which every outlet of the mainstream media enthusiastically supported, those who refuse to repeat slogans of "Ukrainian democracy" or "Russian aggression" are denigrated, either as cowards or as apologists for the heinous actions of others, for which they are obviously not accountable. Apart from being false, the latter allegation is particularly perfidious in that it essentially eliminates reasoned debate.
However, by presuming that history began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the story becomes easy, a straightforward case of right and wrong. And, while it is true that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine and is thus directly accountable for the current conflict, such a Manichean account contributes little to educated policy debate. Indeed, that is precisely the point: to disguise a history of US intervention in Ukraine while ignoring decades of avowed Russian security interests in the direction of states right on its border.
Therefore, unless you believe that context is irrelevant and that recent history has no bearing on current crises, here are four things you are not supposed to say about Ukraine but that are absolutely true and that all Americans should be aware of before forming a hasty opinion about a deadly serious matter that most Americans were unaware of until a few weeks ago.
The "Revolution of Dignity" Was a Coup Backed by the United States
The 2014 ousting of relatively Russian-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who drew his support mostly from the country's ethnic Russian-dominated eastern regions, was presented as a "revolution of dignity" by Ukrainian nationalists and Western media. Indeed, as Western security analyst George Friedman put it, it was "the most brazen coup in history." As if the obvious nature of events on the ground weren't enough, this was confirmed by a leaked phone call between then-assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, then the US ambassador to Ukraine, during which they selected their preferred candidates for the new Ukrainian leadership and plotted how to avoid the meddling EU screwing it all up by moving too slowly, potentially allowing Russia to interfere in the obviously illegal ouster of a president.
The coup's immediate reason was Yanukovych's acceptance of what amounted to a significant Russian bribe in order to avoid an EU association agreement. None of this was surprising in a country ranked 122nd in terms of corruption, literally the most corrupt country in Europe. What was surprising, though, was the US decision to sweep in and seize Kyiv—a move that US foreign policy professionals publicly lauded in the immediate aftermath.
Ukraine Has a Serious Neo-Nazi Problem
This is something that the mainstream media covered seriously until a few years ago; of course, that was before they realized they would have to try to deceive us into another war. Now, any discussion of what was formerly considered an evident problem is condemned as "Russian propaganda!"
Since the 2014 coup, the empowering of far right extremists, many of whom have openly Neo-Nazi sympathies, has resulted in a major increase in attacks on Jews, feminists, and members of the LGBTQ and Romany communities. Additionally, it has resulted in the prohibition of literature critical of Kyiv's nationalist propaganda, which itself involves the whitewashing of Nazi collaborators.
What are we to believe when, at the same time that domestic witch hunts for alleged white nationalists are being conducted with near-hysterical zeal, state-of-the-art shoulder-fired antiaircraft and antitank weaponry is being shipped in large quantities to extremist white nationalists in Ukraine who would rank near the top of any of our domestic terrorist watch lists?
We are not intended to consider it all, at least not critically—just as we are not supposed to consider anything else critically.
Russians Have Always Been Against NATO Expansion into Ukraine
For instance, how about the fact that our government was always aware that the Russians were vehemently opposed to any NATO involvement in Ukraine but downplayed or dismissed the obvious steps they were taking in that direction—downplaying it to themselves, to the American public, and to the wider European community. Of course, Germany and France knew better and refused to offer Ukraine a membership action plan despite tremendous pressure from Washington. And, while Washington was legally barred from absorbing Ukraine into the alliance, it was taking de facto steps in that direction by conducting joint military exercises in Ukraine at the same time it was shipping sophisticated heavy weaponry to the US-coup-installed government for obvious use against Russia. Since at least 2014, when Putin directed Russian forces to occupy Crimea in order to safeguard the Russian navy's sole warm water port in response to Kyiv's threats to remove them despite Moscow's legal lease, Washington has recognized Putin's special vulnerability in Ukraine. Even years later, Washington has consistently rejected Moscow's repeated attempts to construct an officially neutral Ukraine, including in the weeks preceding the invasion.
Biden Might Have Prevented the War
Yes, even at that late date of January 2022—and all it would have taken was agreeing to Putin's minimum conditions: Ukraine could never join NATO, and additional missiles could not be installed in NATO member nations in eastern Europe. Isn't that outrageous and deservedly rejected? Not according to Joe Biden, who stated that Ukraine's accession to NATO was neither on the table nor a significant priority in the near future. If we take him at his word, why wouldn't Biden simply agree to put it in writing and avert what he has repeatedly stated are imminent Russian plans to invade and destroy Ukraine? We are told, and have been told, that "keeping the door open" to alliance membership is a "holy concept" since NATO expansion began.
Perhaps it should be made public how many Ukrainian lives the State Department and the Pentagon believe this concept is worth, as well as the methodology used to make such assessments.
Indeed, this appears to be a terrible synthesis of the brief 2008 Russian-Georgian War and the decade-long Soviet-Afghan War. In the first case, US encouragement of actions by Tbilisi that were directly contrary to Russian interests precipitated a Russian military intervention; in the latter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the leading US policymaker at the time, admits deliberately precipitating that war by prodding the USSR into fatal overreach in an attempt to protect an allied government from being undermined by the US—in this case, by funding the proto-Taliban mujahideen in Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan.
As Poland prepares to play Pakistan to Ukraine's Afghanistan, acting as a staging area and training ground for rebel fighters slipping back and forth across the border into Ukraine, thereby escalating the threat of war between NATO and Russia, it's worth recalling that this entire situation occurred in part because the local governments in Donetsk and Luhansk recognized the obvious: what happened in Kyiv in 2013–14 was a coup, and they refused to recognize the new government. Additionally, we should bear in mind that Russia intervened only after the Ukrainian military attempted to retake these regions militarily—and that, since the Minsk Two peace accords failed to achieve a durable ceasefire, over 80% of those killed have been ethnic Russians living in the breakaway regions, who were assassinated by the Kyiv government.
With Democrats and Republicans squabbling over who supports intervention in Ukraine more, and with uninformed and misinformed people increasingly calling for even more disastrous interventionist measures, the American public needs to be reminded that it is entirely possible for us to have a foreign policy that keeps us perfectly safe while not killing large numbers of people elsewhere, and further, that the majority of the various crises around the world about which we are told the US is responsible do not actually involve the US.