It became increasingly clear on Monday and on Tuesday morning that the aim of well-organized war hawks in NATO and the U.S., including Republican and some Democratic lawmakers in Washington, is to weaken Russia economically rather than prevent any invasion of Ukraine.
Attacks on Russia at a session of the United Nations Security Council by the U.S. Monday were almost literal repeats of the diplomatic assaults mounted during the worst years of the Cold War against the former Soviet Union.
The placement of Russian troops on that country’s own territory along the borders of Ukraine, not the encirclement of Russia right up to its borders with U.S. and NATO troops and armaments, was portrayed by the U.S. as the main thing endangering peace on earth today.
The continued refusal of Ukraine and the U.S. to honor the treaty ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine in 2014—the Minsk Protocol—was never mentioned. That agreement called for the granting of autonomy to the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine, Donetsk, and Luhansk. The right-wing cabal in charge in Kiev has so far refused to implement it. Instead, they have sent troops to the area that regularly fire into the towns there, killing civilians.
While Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., insisted Russian troops inside Russia were the main threat to global peace and stability, she said nothing about the 800 military bases that the U.S. maintains all around the world, many of which entirely surround Russia.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said it was the U.S. who were the provocateurs, “whipping up tensions and provoking escalation,” and he reiterated Russia’s position that it has no plans to invade Ukraine.
In Washington, meanwhile, lawmakers led by Sen. Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, say they are preparing the “mother of all sanctions” against Russia. The push for economic warfare is much more a product of the need to advance the profiteering of Western fossil fuel industries than it is concern for the fate of Ukraine.
Those companies want to sabotage Nord Stream 2, for example, the pipeline that would carry additional Russian gas to Europe, particularly Germany. If that were included in sanctions, the Western fossil fuel monopiles could force Europe to purchase more of their energy, including fracked gas from the U.S. Right wingers inside Ukraine too would love to rake in profits from what they would charge to have gas flow through Ukraine rather than the Nord Stream 2 Russian pipeline that passes under the Baltic Sea.
While war hawks in the U.S. Congress, in service of Big Oil, were insisting that sanctions be imposed against Russia immediately, even before any Russian troops cross the border into Ukraine, the Kremlin tried to emphasize diplomacy.
The Russian government said it was discussing its key security demands with the U.S., including that NATO cease expansion to the east, which is something the West had agreed to at the end of the Cold War. The Kremlin said it was constantly staying in touch with the U.S. by phone and would meet again if the U.S. agreed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday at a press conference that the U.S. response does not meet the key Russian security demand that NATO cease its eastward expansion.
“It’s already clear now…that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored,” Putin said. The Russian leader declared that the U.S. wanted to “contain Russia” and that it was using Ukraine to do that.
He warned that Ukraine joining NATO could lead to a situation where the Ukrainian government launches military action to annex Crimea or seize control of autonomous Russian-speaking areas in the east.
“Imagine that Ukraine becomes a NATO member and launches those military operations,” Putin said. “Should we fight NATO then? Has anyone thought about it?”
Russia’s president said he hoped dialog over Ukraine would continue and that a way must be found to “protect everyone’s security.”
Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s U.N. ambassador, on Monday described the Russian troop buildup inside its own territory as another move in a long line of “aggressive” action by Russia. She never mentioned that NATO and the U.S. have carried out troop and arms buildups in one country after another since the end of the Cold War, nor that by doing so they have broken key agreements made with Russia, including non-expansion of NATO and the deal setting up autonomous entities in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. troops now operate with impunity even inside former republics of the Soviet Union, including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
And it was, of course, the U.S. that was behind the change of government in Ukraine in 2014 when the democratically-elected president of the country was overthrown in a right-wing coup and forced to flee to Russia. The description by Russia’s UN ambassador Monday of the government that was installed by the U.S. was, in fact, almost entirely accurate. He described it as a coalition of “nationalists, radicals, Russophobes, and pure Nazis.”
Also Monday, much was made in the press here about Russian shipments of blood plasma to the border areas, with pundits claiming this was not bluff but an indication that an invasion is imminent.
As has been the pattern every time the West announces another so-called provocation by the Russians, the claims of blood plasma shipments were followed by more actually aggressive moves by the U.S. and NATO.
The military alliance said it was increasing, even more, the numbers of troops and armaments going to the region, and right-wing lawmakers in the U.S. stepped up the pressure to immediately place sanctions on Russia. Only progressive Democratic lawmakers like Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee in the House and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Senate have opposed the sanction threats as themselves increasing the chance of war.
One western journalist in Ukraine, NBC’s Richard Engel, may have inadvertently spilled the beans about the true on-the-ground situation Monday morning in a dispatch from Maruopal, a city in eastern Ukraine, where he said there was no widespread fear of an imminent Russian invasion.
He described the former industrial hub as a “sleepy rust belt town” that suffered severe job loss after the demise of the Soviet Union, with the majority of the population there actually supporting the restoration of the city to Russian control. He said there was “nostalgia” for “the glory days of the Soviet Union.”
Despite their best efforts, Western media correspondents seem to be having trouble finding mass concern in Ukraine about a potential imminent “invasion” by Russians. MSNBC’s reporter in Kiev had the same problem last week, having to report that people were “going out to restaurants and singing songs” as usual.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.
C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.