Pouring Gas on the Ukrainian Fire

Los Alamos Sudy Group | Greg Mello | February 8th, 2015

This is a guest post by Steven Starr.  Steve is first-class activist, parent, medical scientist, and director of Clinical Laboratory Science at the University of Missouri.   He teaches on nuclear weapons issues and maintains the highly-recommended nucleardarkness.org  web site.  

We have been following the developing situation in Ukraine — a disaster that was made in the West, led by the U.S. — with great alarm.  Steve’s letter is timely and completely accurate as far as I can tell. 

There appears to be almost no serious objections being raised against the loud voices now calling for the US to send large quantities of weapons to Ukraine.  It is not just John McCain demanding that Obama OK massive arms shipments to Kiev. Consider the new report, “Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do”, released by three prominent think tanks this last week (the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, and the  Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The report was signed by:

  • Ambassador Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
  • Strobe Talbott, President, the Brookings Institution, and former Deputy Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Ivo Daalder, President, the Chicago Global Affairs Council, and former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO
  • Michele Flournoy, Chair, Center for a New American Security, and former Under Secretary of Defense
  • Ambassador John Herbst, Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, the Atlantic Council, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
  • Jan Lodal, Distinguished Fellow and former President, the Atlantic Council, and former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense
  • Admiral James Stavridis, Member of the Board, the Atlantic Council, Dean, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe
  • General Charles Wald, Member of the Board, the Atlantic Council, and former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command

The report (see http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2015/02/ukraine-independence-russian-aggression ) recommends that:

  • The White House and Congress should commit serious funds to upgrade Ukraine’s defense capabilities, specifically providing $1 billion in military assistance this year, followed by an additional $1 billion each in the next two fiscal years;
  • The U.S. government should alter its policy and begin providing lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military and;
  • The U.S. government should approach other NATO countries about also providing military assistance to Ukraine.

Strobe Talbot of the Brookings Institution states (at 21 minutes into this interview) that:

In the context of what is happening in Ukraine today, the right way to characterize it is an act of war on the part of the Russian FederationThis means that there is going on in Ukraine today a literal invasion — it is not a proxy war –it is a literal invasion by the Russian Armed Forces, it is a literal occupation of large parts, well beyond Crimea, of Eastern Ukraine, and it is a virtual annexation of a lot of territory other than just the Crimea.  And in that respect, this is a major threat to the peace of Europe, to the peace of Eurasia, and therefore a threat to the interests of the United States, and I would say a threat to the chances of a peaceful 21st century.

However, I would note that the Chief of Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Viktor Muzhenko, stated on January 29th, 2015, stated that there was “no evidence of the presence in the conflict zone in the southeast of Ukraine any regular units of the Russian army.” Muzhenko said that, “There is absolutely no way you can possibly hide huge military formations on a relatively small territory wide open to reporters and OSCE representatives”.

It is certainly true the war in Ukraine has become a proxy war between the US and Russia, and no doubt the Russians are supplying arms and material, along with troops not in Russian uniforms. But if the US chooses to take the course recommended by Brookings, et al, this will surely cause a major reaction from Russia, and it will encourage the ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis in Kiev to continue the war.  This is a deadly combination of events that will propel the US and Russia ever closer to armed conflict.

At present, the Ukrainian military forces are about to suffer another major defeat in Donbass, having something like 8,000 of its troops surrounded and cut off in a “cauldron”.  If they do not surrender, they are likely to be butchered.  Meanwhile, the Ukrainian currency has lost half its value, the economy is in ruins, and armed groups are forming in many of the largest cities, apparently in anticipation of a coup against Poroshenko.  It is precisely these armed groups who are made up of the neo-Nazi factions who have absolutely no intention of seeking a diplomatic solution with the separatists in Donbass. The country is in utter turmoil, with some of the most violent extreme right-wing groups having the most control in the Kiev government.

Is this who we wish to arm?  It is not clear that Poroshenko can even remain in power much longer.  Hence the hasty trip by Merkel and Hollande to Moscow, to meet with Putin  Note that no American representative went with them, and that the meetings with Putin were held without any staff members attending.  It seems fairly clear that Merkel and Hollande do not want a US-Russian war to break out in Ukraine, which seems to put them at odds with the majority of politicians in the US.  But it is a little late for them to change course at this point, given how far down the road they have come in support of US policy.

But there is already a war, which our news does not cover; Western news organizations have no reporters there, they rely upon reports from the Ukrainian government, which they tend to repeat verbatim.  It is as if we pretend that the relentless shelling of the cities of Eastern Ukraine — which has produced more than 1 million refugees, destroyed much of the infrastructure and killed many thousands of people — is somehow not important enough to notice.  Yet this “anti-terrorist operation” has been carried out — largely against the civilians of Donbass — because the US fully supported it and financed it.

Whether or not we Americans are aware of what has been and is happening to the 5.5 million people of Donbass, the Russian people certainly are, as this story dominates Russian news.  Russia has accepted the great majority of the Ukrainian refugees (who are mostly ethnic Russian, hence the charge that the war is really about ethnic cleansing).  Russia is the only nation that has supplied food, medicine, and other aid to the people of Donbass (Donetsk, city of one million, Lughansk, city of about half a million).  The people who remain there are living on starvation rations, similar to what Russians lived on during the siege of Stalingrad by the Nazis.  It is not lost on the Russians that some of the Ukrainian National Guard units fly the same flags that were flown by Hitler.  Russian news covered the story when the Ukrainian Prime Minister recently went on German TV and said that it was important “to prevent another Russian invasion of Germany”.  Russia, which lost 27 million people to the Nazis, notices when Obama declines an invitation to attend the Moscow ceremony of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II.

I am personally ashamed of what the US is doing in Ukraine, and I am astounded that we have what appears to be a bi-partisan push to send unlimited weapons and military aid there, especially since this action is aimed primarily at Russia.  Do all these important Americans honestly believe that Russia is going to back down in a fight on its borders? Isn’t it past time to start talking in detail about the likely consequences of a war with Russia, that is, a nuclear war?

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