Myths and reality about the Ukraine war

12:18 08.09.2023 •

2014. Kyiv. Maidan. Coup d’état

In Ukraine successive governments have turned a once relatively prosperous region of the former Soviet Union into Europe’s poorest country. In the 30 years of independence before the present war, Ukraine’s population fell from 52 to 44 million, writes David Mandel, a former professor of political science at Université du Québec à Montréal.

A violent coup in February 2014, authored by ultranationalists and directly supported by the United States, overthrew an elected president. The coup, and the new regime’s first measures directed against Russian-speakers, provoked resistance, and eventually an armed confrontation, in the eastern Donbas region. That civil war, and foreign intervention in it on both sides is a crucial contextual dimension of the present war that is ignored by official NATO sources and the subservient mainstream media (MSM).

How one views the war depends very much on the starting point of one’s analysis. NATO spokespersons and their MSM typically begin from Russia’s invasion. The resulting picture is one of a big, well-armed state that has invaded a smaller one that is bravely defending its territory and sovereignty.

As concerns Moscow’s motives, NATO’s public was informed only that the invasion was “unprovoked.” That word was obligatory in all official and MSM reports of the invasion.  

NATO’s expansion into Ukraine was the main issue that Moscow raised, as it amassed troops on the border in the months preceding the war and while it repeatedly called on Washington to negotiate an agreement. As late as December 2021, a few weeks before the invasion, Moscow made yet one more formal proposal to the US and NATO to sign a European security treaty and to begin negotiations at once. Like all the previous proposals, it was ignored.

And the CIA reported that Moscow’s decision to invade was taken only a few days before the order was issued—a clear indication the war might have been avoided if the US and NATO had agreed to start negotiating a European security treaty.

Moscow’s stubborn pursuit of such an agreement is, in fact, quite remarkable, when one considers the long list of provocative US policies in the years before the invasion. The following list is no doubt incomplete:

  • US violation of its 1990 promise not to extend NATO beyond united Germany.
  • US unilateral exit in 2001 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the cornerstone of nuclear arms control for two decades.
  • US direct involvement in Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan coup, the violent overthrow of an elected president, and the immediate recognition by all the NATO states of the putsch government, despite the agreement, brokered earlier by Germany and France, for a provisional coalition government and advanced new elections.
  • NATO’s subsequent arming and training of Ukraine’s army, which was engaged in a civil war against a Russia-supported Donbas insurgency that rejected the Maidan coup.
  • Failure of the NATO states to enforce the Minsk agreements, negotiated in 2014-15 by France and Germany, for a peaceful termination of the civil war; the former leaders of both countries later admitted they brokered the accords in bad faith only to gain time for arming Kyiv.
  • US unilateral exit in 2019 from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, accompanied by the installation in Poland and Romania of short-range nuclear-capable missiles only 12 minutes flight-time from Moscow.
  • US unilateral termination in 2020 of the Open Skies Treaty that permitted reconnaissance flights to verify compliance and increase mutual trust.

In light of all this, one has to marvel at Moscow’s persistence in pursuing a negotiated agreement.

The failure of successive US administrations to respond to Moscow’s concerns, which were repeatedly expressed in the years and months before the invasion, and despite direct warnings from a series of top American officials, clearly suggests that Washington wanted this war.

And certainly, once the war began, the American administration, backed by the other NATO states, has done nothing to promote diplomacy and a negotiated settlement that would save lives and precious social and economic infrastructure. The opposite is, in fact, true: the US has consistently blocked, and continues to reject, a diplomatic settlement that would stop the killing and destruction.

According to former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who took part in the early negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, a diplomatic solution was indeed shaping up toward the end of March. According to various reports, Ukraine had agreed to a permanently neutral, non-aligned and non-nuclear status, while its security would be guaranteed, in case of an attack, by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Ukraine agreed to restore some official status to the Russian language, which was spoken by over half its population and has been banned from public life by the present government.

And so, five weeks into the war, both Kyiv and Moscow were expressing optimism about a possible negotiated ceasefire, something the MSM scarcely managed to notice. But just then, in late March, Biden capped a European trip with a noteworthy speech. As usual, he began by insisting on the unprovoked nature of the invasion. A few days later, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a sudden appearance in Kyiv. Volodymyr Zelensky’s aide informed the press that Johnson had brought a simple message: “Don’t sign any agreement with Putin.”

This, not incidentally, occurred just after Russia had removed its troops from around Kyiv, a move widely reported by the MSM as proof that Ukraine could win the war.

Since the war began, American diplomats have been conspicuously absent from any dialogue with their Russian counterparts.

It is widely recognized — and various high-level US officials have stated this openly — that this is a proxy war between the US and Russia, whose goal is to weaken Russia (see, for example, the 2019 RAND Corporation study, Overextending and Unbalancing Russia) in preparation perhaps for a confrontation with China, which Washington sees as a challenger to its unipolar system.

Another US goal in provoking the war, one that has clearly been achieved, was to cement its influence over Europe. The US has worked systematically to exclude Russia from any European security arrangement that would replace NATO, an alliance born of the Cold War.

Over the years many top-level US officials, including the current CIA Director William Burns, have clearly warned that that policy aroused the hostility of all Russian governments. That was so even well before Putin became president and when American advisors occupied key positions in the Russian state. But Russia’s hostility was not unwelcome for Washington, since it served as a most useful justification for NATO’s continued existence and expansion. And so it did not take long for NATO to declare that ‘Russia posed an existential threat’ to its members — the circle was closed.

One need not be a military expert to see that there is not the slightest prospect that Ukraine can regain its lost territory, or possibly even avoid losing more, through continued military action, unless, of course, NATO forces directly enter the war — a move that would threaten the world with nuclear Armageddon. This was evident to objective observers from the very first moment of the war, even to the New York Times, which a month into the war admitted that the US goal was to pull Russia into a quagmire.

Continued pursuit of war will bring only more death and destruction to the people of Ukraine. At one point, that was admitted even by the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who called for a negotiated settlement and was duly instructed to shut up. And if anyone still nurtured illusions, the current Ukrainian “counteroffensive,” whose inevitable failure was obvious to any objective observer, should have finally dispelled them.

However one views Russia’s invasion, to support pursuit of the war by Kyiv until victory, until all lost territory has been regained, and to call for Russia’s strategic defeat — the current position of that regime, supported by the US and NATO — is to support a profoundly criminal policy, since the goal is unrealizable, David Mandel concludes.


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