“I’m convinced that we have reached the decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, Munich Security Conference, 2007
How much do you know about the crisis in Ukraine? See if you can answer these 7 questions.
Question 1– Does the Biden administration’s push to bring Ukraine into NATO violate agreements the US has signed previously?
The answer is “Yes”. In Istanbul (1999) and in Astana (2010), the US and the other 56 countries in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) signed documents “that contained interrelated principles to ensure the indivisibility of security.”
What does that mean?
It means that parties to the agreement must refrain from any action that could affect the security interests of the other members. It means that parties cannot put military bases and missile sites in locations that pose a threat to other members. It means that parties must refrain from using their respective territories to carry out or assist armed aggression against other members. It means that parties are prohibited from acting in a manner that runs counter to the principles laid out in the treaty. It means that Ukraine cannot become a member of NATO if its membership poses a threat to Russian security.
Is any of this hard to understand?
No, it is perfectly clear.
So, when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claims that “every nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements”, he is being deliberately misleading. Stoltenberg knows that both NATO and the United States agreed that they “would NOT strengthen their own security at the expense of the security of others.” He also knows that NATO and the US are legally obligated to act in accordance with the agreements they signed in the past.
Naturally, Russia is challenging Washington on this matter. Here’s what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference last week:
“Today, we are sending an official request to our colleagues in the countries of the Alliance and the OSCE via the Foreign Ministry with a pressing request to explain how they intend to fulfill the commitment not to strengthen their security at the expense of security of the others… This will really undermine relations with the Russian Federation as it will be a gross violation of obligations taken by the presidents of the US and other member states of the alliance.”
And here’s a similar quote from Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov on Tuesday:
“The United States concentrates on the right of states to choose alliances, enshrined in the declarations of the Istanbul (1999) and Astana (2010) OSCE Summits. At the same time, it ignores the fact that these particular documents condition this right on the obligation not to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others. The main problem is that NATO countries are strengthening their security by weakening Russia. We do not agree with such an approach.” (Tass)
Bottom line: The US and NATO are shrugging off their obligations to achieve their geopolitical objectives. Not surprisingly,
no one in the western media has reported on this issue even though there is incontrovertible evidence supporting the Russian position.
Question 2– The Biden administration has been pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to exaggerate the likelihood of a Russian invasion in order to fuel public hysteria and intensify Russia hatred?
This is “True”. On Thursday, senior Ukrainian officials told CNN that a call between Zelensky and Biden “did not go well.” They said Biden claimed “that a Russian attack may be imminent, saying that an invasion was now virtually certain.” Zelensky, however refuted the claim saying that the threat from Russia remains ‘dangerous but ambiguous,’ and “it is not certain that an attack will take place.”
“Do we have tanks on the streets?” Zelensky asked. “No. When you read media, you get the image that we have troops in the city, people fleeing … That’s not the case.”
The Ukrainian president also urged Biden to “calm down the messaging…. We do not see an escalation greater than” last year. He later added that “he was taking the danger in stride.”
Zelensky’s attempts to downplay the hyperbolic reports in the media, confirm that the current “crisis atmosphere” is largely an invention of the western media. In this way, the coverage is very similar to the fabricated “Russiagate” hoax.
Question 3– Ukraine has been in a state of crisis since the US-backed coup in 2014. Have the warring parties settled on a way to end the conflict?
The answer is “Yes”, they have. The Minsk Agreement was signed in February, 2015. Regrettably, the Ukrainian government has made no attempt to comply with the treaty’s terms.
“The signing was preceded by the summit of leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany who agreed to a package of measures to alleviate the war in the Donbas.” In other words, everyone agreed that these measures would end the fighting and bring the conflict to a close.
Both sides agreed to a ceasefire, a withdraw of troops and military equipment from the war-zone, and to recognize the de-facto autonomy (aka- “special status”) of the Donbass region. This would be followed by general disarmament and a reestablishing of Ukrainian control over its Russian border.
Over the years, Putin has called repeatedly for Minsk to be fully implemented, but Kiev has stubbornly refused. Even though the Ukrainian government has signed the agreement, they are determined to intensify hostilities and prolong the war.
On Wednesday, February 2, Ukrainian authorities once again demonstrated their opposition to the agreed settlement. According to reports in the Russian media:
“Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba …ruled out providing special status and veto power to Donbass…
“No Ukrainian region will have a right power for national state decisions. This is set in stone! There will be no special status, as Russia imagines it, no voting power,” he said.” (Tass News Service)
Keep in mind, there is no Minsk Agreement without the “special status” provision which amounts to de facto autonomy conferred on the Russian-speaking people of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Special status is the glue that holds the agreement together as it assures the people of those provinces that they won’t be arbitrarily and viciously persecuted by hostile elements in the government. So, when the Foreign Minister rules out special status, he is, in effect, removing the cornerstone upon which the entire treaty rests.
Was the Ukranian FM’s statement crafted by officials in the US State Department?
Probably. After all, a unified, prosperous Ukraine at peace with its neighbors does not jibe with Washington’s imperial ambitions. What the Biden administration wants is a splintered, bankrupt failed state riven by ethnic animosities that can be easily manipulated by political outsiders who see Ukraine as an essential part of their geopolitical strategy.
Washington does not seek an end to the hostilities. Washington wants to perpetuate the status quo.
Question 4– Did Putin expect the US and NATO to seriously address Russia’s security concerns?
The answer is “No, he didn’t.” As Kremlin-watcher Ray McGovern said in a recent article:
“It strains credulity to imagine that Putin really thought he could get the US and NATO to sign a document limiting NATO membership. No less incredulous is the widespread impression… in the Establishment media, that Putin planned to exploit an anticipated Western rejection to “justify” a military strike on Ukraine.” (“Will Putin Accept Half a Loaf”, Ray McGovern, antiwar.com)
McGovern is right on both counts. Putin has more than 20-years’ experience dealing with the US. Surely, he knew that Washington was never going to “cave in” or capitulate to the demands of a rival, particularly a rival that has topped its “Enemies List” for the last decade. Besides, as McGovern points out, there is zero chance that Ukraine will be admitted into NATO anytime soon. Even “President Joe Biden… acknowledged that fact when he opined, “The likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely.”
As for Russia’s “security concerns”, they are both legitimate and urgent. Putin cannot allow nuclear weapons to be deployed to sites in Romania and Poland where they are just a few hundred miles from their targets in nearby Russia. He must find a way to convince Washington that this gross violation of regional security (and previous commitments) is really in no one’s interest, and that if the problem cannot be resolved through peaceful negotiations, Russia will be forced to pursue other options.
Question 5– Is Russia using the hoopla over Ukraine to draw Washington into negotiations on the US missile sites in Romania and Poland?
The answer is “Yes”. McGovern’s analysis seems to suggest that the Russians are more worried about the missile sites than they are about Ukraine, and for good reason. Here is the money-quote from Putin (to his top brass) that underscores the urgency of the situation:
“It is extremely alarming that … Mk 41 launchers, which are located in Romania and are to be deployed in Poland, are adapted for launching Tomahawk strike missiles. If this infrastructure continues to move forward, and if US and NATO missile systems are deployed in Ukraine, their flight time to Moscow will be only 7–10 minutes, or even five minutes for hypersonic systems.
“This is a huge challenge for us, for our security.”
Clearly, Putin is worried about these developments although many Americans are only hearing about them for the first time. Six years ago, Putin made the case for abandoning missile defense in a riveting presentation he made to select members of the press who basically “disappeared” his comments from the Internet. The major media have never reported his statement. Here’s part of what he said:
“Once the missile defense system is put in place it will work automatically with the entire nuclear capability of the United States. It will be an integral part of the US nuclear capability. For the first time in history there will be elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security….. Of course, we have to respond to that.”
Like we said earlier, Putin’s warning never appeared in the western media. Even so, America’s so-called “Missile Defense” system poses a clear danger to Russia’s national security. It integrates the United States nuclear system (including space-based operations) with systems that are within Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. It also gives Washington a leg-up on a first-strike capability which is the death-knell for Russian security. In response to these developments, Russia has created an entirely new regime of nuclear weapons and state-of-the-art Avangard Hypersonic Intercontinental missiles. This, in turn, has reestablished the essential balance of power between the two nations, but also sets the stage for another ferocious round of weapons development that could intensify hostilities and lead to a resumption of the Cold War.
Question 6– Why is Washington so hostile towards Russia? Does Russia pose a threat to the United States long-term strategic objectives?
The answer is “Yes”, it does. In fact, Russia has become the biggest obstacle to Washington’s ambitious plan to project power across Central Asia in order to capitalize off the region’s explosive growth. Putin has foiled that strategy by strengthening the Russian economy and rebuilding the nations defenses. Keep in mind, the globalist plan for Russia was to create a fragmented, federalized system that opened its vast resources to foreign exploitation while weakening the center of political power in Moscow. Here’s how foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski summed it up in an article titled “A Geostrategy for Eurasia”:
“Given (Russia’s) size and diversity, a decentralized political system and free-market economics would be most likely to unleash the creative potential of the Russian people and Russia’s vast natural resources. A loosely confederated Russia — composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic — would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with its neighbors. Each of the confederated entitles would be able to tap its local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow’s heavy bureaucratic hand. In turn, a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.” (Zbigniew Brzezinski, “A Geostrategy for Eurasia”, Foreign Affairs, 1997)
Naturally, Putin’s transformative effect on the Russian economy (and defenses) has completely derailed Brzezinski’s plan. It has also blocked Washington’s “pivot to Asia” plan which was summarized by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech she delivered in 2011. Here’s some of what she said:
“The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action…. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region…
Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia.” (“America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011)
What we can construe from this excerpt is that US foreign policy planners anticipated that the encirclement, weakening and eventual breakup of the Russian Federation would allow US military bases to spread across Central Asia (“forging a broad-based military presence”) making it possible to control China’s growth so that western corporations could assume a dominant position in the region. This is what Clinton breezily referred to as “rebalancing”, that is, the presumed emergence of western corporations as the main players in the world’s most populous and prosperous region. So far, Putin has prevented that plan from materializing.
Conversely, the US and its allies have derailed Putin’s plan for a Greater Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Here’s how Putin summed it up in a speech in 2012:
“Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans…That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as ‘the Union of Europe’ which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the ‘new Asia.’”
At the time, Putin failed to realize that Washington would do everything in its power to block further integration realizing that the economic “harmonization” of Europe and Asia (in the form of a free-trade zone) represented an existential threat to the “unipolar” world model. Here’s how political analyst Jack Rasmus summed it up in an article at Counterpunch:
“Behind the sanctions is the USA objective of driving Russia out of the European economy. Europe was becoming too integrated and dependent on Russia. Not only its gas and raw materials, but trade relations and money capital flows were deepening on many fronts between Russia and Europe in general prior to the Ukraine crisis that has provided the cover for the introduction of the sanctions. Russia’s growing economic integration with Europe threatened the long-term economic interests of US capitalists. Strategically, the US precipitated coup in the Ukraine can be viewed, therefore as a means by which to provoke Russian military intervention, i.e. a necessary event in order to deepen and expand economic sanctions that would ultimately sever the growing economic ties between Europe and Russia long term. That severance in turn would not only ensure US economic interests remain dominant in Europe, but would also open up new opportunities for profit making for US interests in Europe and Ukraine as well…” (The Global Currency Wars, Jack Rasmus, CounterPunch)
Hillary Clinton went so far as to claim that Putin’s attempt to create a free trade zone spanning the continents was actually an effort to “re-Sovietize the region.”… “Let’s make no mistake about it,” she said. “We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”
This helps to explain why the US has gone to such lengths to stop NordStream from transporting natural gas from Russia to Germany. The pipeline creates economic entanglements that will further strengthen EU-Russia relations while undermining US regional primacy. US officials worry that strengthening ties between Moscow and Europe could eventually lead to the abandonment of the US dollar which would end its lofty role as the worlds reserve currency. In fact, it is very likely that Washington concocted the present crisis in Ukraine with the explicit intention of sabotaging NordStream which is still in limbo due to relentless US meddling.
It appears that the overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Ukraine is a critical landbridge that connects the EU to Central Asia. Washington intends to control that bridge so it can continue to project its power eastward.
Question 7– What does Putin want?
Putin has been completely transparent about what he considers Russia’s national interests, in fact, it’s all laid out clearly in a 2013 official state document titled “Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russia Federation”. This short excerpt restates what Putin has said publicly many times in the past.
“Russia wants “a stable and sustainable system of international relations based on international law and principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs of states. The system aims to provide reliable and equal security for each member of the international community in the political, military, economic, informational, humanitarian and other areas.”
There it is in black and white. Putin’s views on global security are shaped largely by his grasp of Russian history and his dealings with the impulsive and self-aggrandizing foreign policy of the United States which casually brushes off whatever international laws or treaties inhibit Washington’s ability to unilaterally impose its will wherever and whenever it chooses. In contrast, Putin supports a “rules based” system that defends the security interests of all the nations equally and without prejudice. Here’s more from the same document:
“The current stage of the world development is characterized by profound changes in the geopolitical landscape largely provoked or accelerated by the global financial and economic crisis. International relations are in the process of transition, the essence of which is the creation of a polycentric system of international relations. That process is not an easy one. It is accompanied by increased economic and political turbulence at the global and regional levels. International relations become increasingly complex and unpredictable.
The ability of the West to dominate world economy and politics continues to diminish. The global power and development potential is now more dispersed and is shifting to the East, primarily to the Asia-Pacific region. The emergence of new global economic and political actors with Western countries trying to preserve their traditional positions enhances global competition, which is manifested in growing instability in international relations….
With tendency for decentralization of the global system of governance, regional governance emerges as a basis for the polycentric model of the world (with the UN being another foundation), reflecting the world’s diversity and variety. New centers of economic growth and political power increasingly take responsibility for their respective regions. Regional integration becomes an effective means to increase competitiveness of the participating states….
Russia is fully aware of its special responsibility for maintaining security in the world both on the global and regional levels and is determined to act jointly with all the interested states to address common challenges. Russia will work to anticipate and forestall events and remain prepared for any scenario in global affairs.” (“Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russia Federation”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation)
This is a brief but fairly accurate account of recent history. Yes, the financial crisis did leave the US economically hobbled with the equities markets artificially propped up by massive injections of Central Bank liquidity while inflation continues to climb higher and the National Debt explodes to an eye-watering $30 trillion in red ink. These are not signs of strength, they are signs of weakness, incompetence and corruption. And even this is not the whole picture.
While Washington has been pursuing its counterproductive conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, other centers of power have been gradually growing stronger creating a “polycentric system of international relations” that will inevitably replace the unipolar world order while accelerating the pace of America’s decline.
At present, the US is engaged in the hopeless task of trying to turn-back-the-clock to the post WW 2 era when the world was in ruins and America was the only game in town. This effort has taken on a new and more disturbing dimension, as desperate politicians and their handlers recklessly provoke nuclear-armed Russia over a piece of ground that has no vital strategic interest for the United States. We can only hope that cooler heads prevail.
Finally, what Putin wants is a peaceful transition from the current obsolete and dysfunctional order to a new system that better provides reliable and equal security for all members of the international community. We think that’s a goal worth pursuing.
Reprinted with permission from The Unz Review.