This essay is on the Ukraine conflict, its deep causes and consequences in a broader geopolitical context, and what it means for US imperial hegemony. The goal is to provide missing context amidst intense war propaganda. Reposted from my Twitter thread.
I will try to avoid making value judgments, but I will just say here that I am not a “Putin supporter” – he is an anti-communist after all – and I think war is one of the worst things ever to unleash. However, this conflict started 8 years ago & the seeds planted much earlier.
First, the myths around what NATO is need to be dispelled if we are to understand the immediate context of the Ukraine conflict. NATO is not simply a “defensive” alliance, it is a military coalition led by the US which is hostile to any obstacle to American hegemony.
From Yugoslavia to Libya, NATO has demonstrated with its actions a willingness to engage in hostile actions that go far beyond any reasonable definition of “defensive” operations.
Why does NATO still exist even after the USSR? It is telling that NATO conducted zero formal military operations during the Cold War and has only conducted active operations since the collapse of the USSR.
As is now clear, the alleged “threat” of the USSR was only a convenient excuse for its real purpose – a formalized, unified military structure for the American empire. Now that the USSR is gone, eastward expansion could ensue & new enemies had to be fabricated.
NATO’s eastward expansion toward Russia took place in multiple waves after the USSR, despite assurances to Russia that this wouldn’t happen. Meanwhile, 9/11 was the first and only instance of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty being invoked.
9/11 happened under the watch of the PNAC regime, at a time when both Russia and China were not credible “threats.”
In fact, the US empire/NATO had zero credible threats at this time. Needless to say, the post-9/11 environment provided ample support and justification for NATO itself and for the ensuing American military actions throughout MENA. At least momentarily.
This carte blanche environment enabled the so-called “War on Terror” which was itself designed to establish US hegemony in a geostrategically crucial part of the world that I’ve termed the “Triangle of Control”.
So at the same time that NATO is expanding eastward, the US is conducting operations in this crucial area to the south. In effect, Russia is being squeezed on two fronts.
Ironically, Russia had initially made moves toward closer ties with the US. Putin claims that in 2000 he discussed joining NATO with outgoing President Clinton, but was rejected. Nonetheless, Russia cooperated with NATO in certain areas such as anti-terrorism.
These overtures by Russia were either rejected or “forgotten” about, as the US continued to expand NATO and in 2002 withdrew from the crucial Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which had been in place since 1972.
The importance of the ABM treaty cannot be overstated. It was designed to limit both the USSR and the US from expanding the development of missile systems that could intercept ICBMs in a nuclear exchange, thus preserving the nuclear balance of power.
If one side believes they can get an upper-hand in a nuclear exchange via the usage of ABM systems, it would tilt the balance of power and increase the likelihood of one side calculating that they could “win” the exchange.
By withdrawing from the ABM treaty, the US sent the message to Russia that the door to upending the nuclear balance of power was now open. We have subsequently seen a new nuclear arms race, and the development of hypersonic missile systems.
Subsequently, we have seen the installment of ABM systems in Romania and Poland. Russia has stated its concerns that these systems could be made into offensive systems and have their capabilities expanded in the future.
So, what we have are a number of actions by the US empire of closing in on Russia on multiple fronts. All of this came to a head in 2008 during the 20th NATO summit, which I believe was the turning point and the “last straw” essentially.
At this summit, NATO announced its intention to have Ukraine and Georgia join. This would be a major addition to NATO forces and almost completely close off Russia’s Western front. Russia obviously objected.
Putin stated, in no uncertain or ambiguous terms, that this “would be taken in Russia as a direct threat to the security of our country” and that “we’ve heard promises previously on the subject of expansion, but for us there’s no clarity about Nato’s future intentions.”
“Vladimir Putin tells summit he wants security and friendship”
This is an important point to make, not because we have to agree with Russia’s position, but that the position was well known for over a decade.
A lot could be said about the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, but Georgia was almost certainly emboldened by its support from NATO when it made the calculation to attack South Ossetia.
“Georgia started war with Russia: EU-backed report”
I believe the combination of the Bucharest summit and the Georgia conflict in 2008 was the final nail in the coffin and cemented the hostile relationship we now see between the West and Russia.
In every instance, it was the US empire that pushed the relationship into hostility.
Three years later, NATO launched its attack on Libya which resulted in the overthrow of Gaddafi and the total collapse of the Libyan state. The country was thrown into total chaos and became an open-air slave market.
At this point, there could be no doubts that NATO was nothing more than the tool of American empire and was willing to use offensive force to overthrow other countries if it deemed necessary.
During this time, the US was also engaged in arming and supporting the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria’s proxy war. Syria, a major Russian ally, was thrown into utter chaos thanks to this proxy war, which became one of the deadliest in recent history.
The Syrian proxy war demonstrated to all (again) the lengths to which the US was willing to go to overthrow enemy governments. It had full knowledge that support for these “rebels” could result in a Salafist partition of Syria:
According to the DIA document, the US was also fully aware that Al-Qaeda in Iraq (which later became ISIS) was the driving force of the insurgency. [Sensing a pattern here?] Russia mainly stayed out of this conflict, in any direct fashion, until 2015.
Russia began its military campaign in Syria in 2015, at the request of the Syrian government. Subsequently, a massive propaganda effort was launched to denounce Russia’s actions. This is when the now-infamous and largely debunked “chemical attack” claims were made.
Remember, this is a proxy war in which the US itself had internally concluded that the driving force of the “insurgency” were terror groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq, and which it believed would end in a Salafist partition of the country.
What the Syrian proxy war demonstrated – and this is a crucial point that most people are missing – is that the US was willing to go so far as to arm rebels alongside extremist groups if it meant advancing its strategic interests against Russia. Does this sound familiar?
How is Russia expected to interpret these actions by the US empire? Let’s start to bring Ukraine, finally, into this analysis. One year prior to Russia’s military campaign in Syria, Ukraine experienced a US-backed coup in which neo-Nazi elements were the decisive force.
I have previously documented the official merger between the post-2014 Ukrainian state and openly fascist forces. This is a matter of public record and was well documented even by Western media:
After the 2014 coup, Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas declared independence. I won’t get into all the details, but just know that Eastern and Western Ukraine are deeply divided politically, linguistically, etc. The Ukrainian state began shelling/attacking this region.
This shelling was ongoing, essentially daily, over the last 8 years. During this period, Russia actually declined to recognize the independence of these regions.
Instead, Russia favored the diplomatic solution known as the Minsk Agreements. These were supposed to provide for a cease fire, but were never fully implemented in large part due to opposition from the fascist forces in Ukraine which were actively fighting in the Donbas.
Crucially, Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh refused the agreements as “unconstitutional”. As noted in my thread above, Yarosh was very recently (before the Russian invasion) appointed to be an advisor to the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
During all of this, the US has been flooding the country with weapons and training, to the tune of about $2.7 billion since 2014. This makes Ukraine the largest recipient of military aid in Europe, with amounts ramping up over the years.
In 2021, Ukrainian officials began openly talking about “arming itself with nuclear weapons” if it did not succeed in joining NATO. This fact has been obfuscated as one of “Putin’s conspiracy theories” even though it was widely reported:
So we have a situation in which the post-2014 Ukrainian government, having openly merged with fascist forces, continues to shell its own people on Russia’s border and now begins talking about arming itself with nuclear weapons.
This is in addition to the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO – and all the implications that entails – which Russia made clear 14 years ago would be crossing a red line.
Despite there being 1,000 and one possibilities for the US to de-escalate hostilities with Russia, it continued to pursue policies towards Ukraine that lead to where we are today. Regardless of your opinion on Russia’s actions, it is essential to know this.
What does all of this mean going forward? This may be the first big acceleration towards a bifurcated global economy/political system. I think the massive sanctions regime against Russia is only going to push Russia towards China.
If this happened 20 years ago, I think the sanctions would be really devastating for Russia. But the fact is that China has essentially created a second economy completely independent of the West, and this will likely drive further Russian-Chinese integration.
What truly concerns me though is the huge numbers of civilians caught in the crossfire amidst extremely dangerous armies of fascist forces. As the Ukrainian position deteriorates, I worry about these heavily armed gangs of neo-Nazis roaming around without any direction.
I worry that as they see the writing on the wall, these extreme forces might try a false-flag op blamed on Russia (not unlike what happened in Syria) to trigger a wider conflict.
I truly hope this is resolved quickly and as peacefully as possible, but we need to understand how the US empire created this massively dangerous situation. I worry someone may have a moment of insanity and try to escalate the situation. Let’s hope that cool heads prevail.