Get a grip America

Who’s the Real Aggressor in Ukraine? (Hint: It’s Not Russia)

The US corporate media are awash in fevered articles and news stories about a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine, as though it was 1938, with German troops marching into Sedetenland and Austria. But let’s step back and look at what’s going on, calmly and rationally.

Ukraine, the eastern half of which country has historically been a part of Russia (the western part having in the past been a part of Poland), is in truth an ethnically and geographically divided “nation,” composed of Ukrainians, the majority of whom live in the western part of the country, and ethnic Russians who, while a minority within the whole of Ukraine, are a majority in the eastern part of the country.

After the last elected president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, was driven out of office and out of the country in a putsch earlier this year, financed and backed politically by the United States, the new post-putsch government in Kiev begin instituting or threatening to institute laws that were viewed as threatening and repressive by the Russian minority in the east — things like restrictions on the use of Russian language, for example. As a result, the Ukrainian Russians rebelled, declaring their several regions to be autonomous republics. In Crimea, where Russians are the overwhelming majority of the population, a snap election was held on whether to leave Ukraine altogether, and rejoin Russia. It passed overwhelmingly, with over 90% of voters opting for reunion with Russia. (similar votes were also held, against Russia’s advice, in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, with similar results.)

Russia’s parliament agreed to annex Crimea, which not incidentally hosts Russia’s only southern naval base (it was at the time being rented to Russia by Ukraine on a long-term lease).

Subsequently, the Ukrainian government (under strong pressure from the US, including a secret visit by the head of the CIA) launched a military campaign, increasingly violent and bloody, to put down the rebellion in the “autonomous” regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, as well as in the cities of Odessa and Miriupol. After some 2200 civilians had been killed by indiscriminate Ukrainian shelling, rocket bombardments and aerial bombing of eastern cities by the Ukrainian airforce, and by armed fascist thugs in Odessa and Miriupol, with the outgunned separatist rebel forces being pushed back into the centers of the of Lugansk and Donetsk, where their situation looked increasingly desperate, Russia has apparently responded. It did this either by a direct intervention of Russian troops and armor, as claimed by the Ukrainian government, or, more likely, by allowing or encouraging Russian volunteers to cross the border and join the fight, as claimed by Russia. The result, either way, has been a rout of Ukrainian forces, who are now in almost full retreat.

Russia’s increased support for the separatist forces in the east, and the Ukrainian military’s abject collapse in the face of the separatist counteroffensive, has US officials, and the once war-mongering US corporate media, apoplectic. The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! America needs to act!

An entire village in the majority Russian-speaking Lugansk region, leveled by Ukrainian military shellingAn entire village in the majority Russian-speaking Lugansk region, leveled by Ukrainian military shelling

Now let’s pause a moment and take a page here from Noam Chomsky to conduct a thought experiment:

Imagine for a moment that Mexico’s elected government was just recently overthrown by a violent putsch, financed for the sake of argument by some $5 billion in Russian money funneled to pro-Russian Mexican activists in the country. Suppose too that the new pro-Russian government installed by the putschists then began a military campaign against the pro-US Mexicans living in the 50-mile-wide strip of Mexico just south of the US border (I don’t know if there are any pro-US Mexicans living there, but let’s at least pretend there are). Now imagine that the Mexican military began indiscriminately shelling and bombing towns like Juarez, Tijuana and Encinada — places filled not just with pro-American Mexicans, but with many Americans who have vacation homes or who manage maquiladora factories across the border from the US. Imagine that several thousand Americans in those areas had already been killed by the Mexican military’s attacks.

Do you, dear reader, believe for a moment that the US would hesitate, or even think twice, about sending a huge military expeditionary force across the border into Mexico to defend US interests and expat American lives? Of course it wouldn’t; the US government would act immediately, and the public would be demanding blood. In fact, the US public would probably be demanding a march on Mexico City, and the overthrow of the new Mexican government!

Just so with Russia and the Ukraine. The US made the enormous error over the past few years of provocatively helping to organize the ouster of an elected pro-Russian government in Kiev, and was openly trying to move Ukraine, a former soviet, or state, of the Soviet Union, into the US orbit, even making it a member of NATO — a Cold War organization expressly created to contain and threaten Russia. And Russia reacted exactly as the US would do in a similar situation to this perceived threat to its security.

Truth is, we all know how the US reacts when governments in what it deems to be its “back yard” start to act independently. When Fidel Castro and his guerrillas ousted the corrupt fascist dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1958, the US immediately began plotting his overthrow, even sponsoring an invasion in 1961 — the Bay of Pigs fiasco. When Russia tried to make Cuba a part of the Soviet Bloc by installing nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962, the US came within a button’s push of launching a nuclear war in order to get them removed, even though the US had already installed similar nuclear missiles in Turkey, on Russia’s southern border earlier (these Jupiter IRBMs had to be removed as part of the deal to get Russia’s missiles off Castro’s island).

Similarly, after the assassination of long-standing dictator, Rafael Trujillo, and the eventual election of a leftist leader, Juan Bosch, during a period of turmoil, the US Marines invaded and crushed Bosch’s progressive political forces, installing another fascist regime in the country. The same thing happened when Haitians elected a leader, Jean-Bertrande Aristide, who appeared to Washington’s policy elite to be a threat to US commercial interests on the island, and who was eventually, in 2004, ousted in a US-orchestrated coup and kidnapped and flown to involuntary exile. (These are only a few of the many examples of the US using military force and subversion to attack countries and governments in the Caribbean, in Central America and in South America.)

Finally, on the pretext — and it was a pure fabrication — of protecting American students at a medical school on the island, recall that the US launched an all-out invasion and toppled the government of the tiny island nation of Grenada in 1983, killing and capturing dozens of Cuban contractors who were working peacefully to build a new airport there to help the island’s tourist industry by making it easier for larger charter jets to land.

The US claim that Russia is an aggressive threat to European security, simply because it is helping ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to defend themselves against a ruthless ethnically-based Ukrainian regime in Kiev that has been relentlessly attacking towns and cities in the majority-Russian part of that country, is absurd on its face. So is the notion that Russian aid to rebels in eastern Ukraine, whatever the extent of that aid, justifies launching a new Cold War. It is also incredibly hypocritical, given America’s long history of militarily dominating the countries to its south (and elsewhere around the world).

It’s time for Americans to stop getting all in a lather over alleged Russian “aggression.” It is, after all, the US that ever since the end of World War II, nearly three-quarters of a century ago, has maintained arms and troops on bases in Europe, and that has been pushing for new nations along Russia’s western border to join NATO (Russian troops are all in Russia, and have been since the reunification of Germany in the early 1990s). It is the US that has been installing threatening missiles along Russia’s borders — missiles that are designed to shoot down Russian ICBM’s, making that country vulnerable to a US first strike. It is the US that has placed a nuclear-armed naval armada right off Russian shores in the Black Sea (Imagine the uproar in the US if Russia were to put a whole nuclear-armed naval battle group in the Gulf of Mexico!). It is the US that has imposed major economic sanctions on Russia before even one Russian soldier, volunteer or otherwise, was in Ukraine. And it is the US that sponsored the overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine. These are all acts of American, not Russian aggression.

In contrast, Russia has shown rather astonishing restraint — far more restraint than the US has ever shown in its dealings with countries to its south — in the face of American provocations, threats and sanctions.