Friday, May 23, 2014

Drifting Towards War?



 By Reginald Johnson


        As violence spreads in Ukraine, the danger grows of an eventual confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.

     Forces loyal to the pro-western regime that came to power in Kiev in a February coup have been waging a brutal military campaign against pro-Russian separatists in the east, who do not recognize the new authorities.

  Dozens of fighters on both sides, as well as civilians, have been killed. There have been some horrific incidents with pro-government neo-Nazi fighters setting fire to buildings where separatists have fled, and burning people alive. Rebel fighters also been accused of accused of atrocities.

    The separatists, many of whom are ethnic Russians, have taken over whole cities in eastern Ukraine and say they won’t take part in a national election set for this Sunday.

   There’s concern on the part of some observers that the on-going fighting could turn into a full-fledged civil war, prompting Russia --- which borders Ukraine --- to intervene. At some point NATO and the U.S. could get involved, too.

   Given that NATO countries like the U.S. are nuclear-armed, and Russia is nuclear-armed, this is a frightening scenario.

   Unfortunately, it’s not a possibility that is totally remote, says the widely respected expert on Russia, Prof. Stephen Cohen.

          “It is not inconceivable that we may be creeping, crawling, drifting towards war with Russia,” Cohen said on the Counterpoint radio show on WPKN hosted by Scott Harris.

    Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton said that in the chaos in Ukraine, “anything can happen….I think it’s the worst crisis since the Cuban missile crisis.”

          The Cuban Missile Crisis, for those not alive at the time or who don’t know, saw the U.S. and Russia (then the Soviet Union) almost start a nuclear war over American demands that Russian missiles be removed from Cuba. Fortumately, catastrophe was averted when Premier Nikita Krushchev of
Russia and President John F. Kennedy worked out a deal, whereby Russian missiles would be taken out of Cuba in return for American missiles being removed from Italy and Turkey, together with a pledge that the U.S. would not invade Cuba.

          Cohen said that to defuse the present crisis, there is an urgent need for dialogue between the Kiev regime and the east Ukrainian separatists. He said the group in east Ukraine is demanding a greater level of autonomy, possibly a form of independence in a federalized system. “This is negotiable,” said Cohen.

    At the urging of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, “roundtable” talks involving officials from Kiev, and political and business leaders in east Ukraine got started last week, but little was accomplished. More talks are planned. Separatist leaders did not attend, partly because they distrust the authorities in Kiev, and partly because the Kiev leaders said they would not talk with people “with blood on their hands,” which would exclude a number of separatists.

          It should be noted that these meetings were not suggested by the United States. The Obama administration said they didn’t object to the talks, but there was no public endorsement for the negotiations by either President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.

          In general, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin has offered a number of steps to try to ease the crisis, while the United States has done nothing. Putin announced he was pulling his troops back from the Ukrainian border, although the west says he is lying; he asked the separatists not to hold independence referendums recently; and he’s now given support for the national election and will respect the results; and he advocated for a dialogue between the Kiev government and the eastern protesters.

     The only contributions coming from the U.S. have been a string of belligerent statements by Obama and Kerry, blaming Russia for arming and encouraging the rebel groups, and saying Russia would be hit with more economic sanctions for its alleged bad behavior.

 There’s been little apparent effort by the administration to make sure that verified neo-Nazis are not being used in the civil strife.  The fascist thugs, who spearheaded the fighting in the February coup, have now been incorporated into the National Guard, and have been reportedly carrying out atrocities in east Ukraine.

          It would be nice if President Obama would change course, tone down the rhetoric and start taking the steps to bring about a constructive dialogue between the factions in Ukraine, and settle the crisis.

          But I don’t think that is likely to happen, because the Ukraine crisis serves the United States. This is part of a long-range plan, developed probably by hawks in the Pentagon and neo-cons in the White House --- and you have to conclude now that Obama is one of them --- to undermine Russia, and ultimately force regime change.

          The noted author and war critic John Pilger wrote recently in The Guardian (“In Ukraine, the U.S. is dragging us to war with Russia”) if the civil strife continues and there’s more attacks on ethnic Russians, Putin may be provoked into coming to their aid. Then, Pilger writes, Putin’s  “pre-ordained ‘pariah’ role will justify a NATO-run guerilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.”

  A war that Russia has to fight next door, similar to the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, would be tremendously draining. That cost, together with the sanctions, could seriously undermine Russia in the long term, and might force regime/leadership change. The annoying Mr. Putin, who has aided two enemies of the U.S., Syria and Iran, would be out of the way. This may be the neo-cons’ dream scenario.

  But this dream plan is fraught with unbelievable risks. If Russia is backed into a corner fighting the Ukrainian regime aided by NATO weaponry, they might consider striking back with nuclear weapons. Someone’s dream scenario becomes a nightmare.

   Obviously, this is all speculation. I don’t know if such a neo-con plan is afoot. But I do know neo-cons and hawks seem to be holding sway in the White House, and Russia is certainly deemed to be a problem nation, given their alliances. So some sort of geopolitical power scheming is going on.

  We have no business in Ukraine. This is in Russia’s backyard, and their actions to date are understandable, if not always legal. They feel threatened by the eastward advance of NATO, and with Ukraine becoming a western ally (and possibly a NATO member later), Russia feels encircled.

  American policy to date in Ukraine is irrational and risks, possibly, a world war.

  People need to get involved in opposing this policy. They need to call and write their congress people and push them to take a stand against this. Congress so far has been asleep at the switch on Ukraine, with too many members unthinkingly going along with the administration. There should be hearings and a debate on Ukraine.

  As Prof. Cohen said, “I don’t remember in my lifetime there ever being a situation in America where war was on the horizon and there was no debate inside the beltway, the mainstream press, or in Congress.

          No debate at all! That’s not democracy. That’s a failure of democracy. Whether I’m right or wrong, everybody should agree we should have a debate about this.” 

    Get involved.


























































































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