News and commentary about Connecticut and the nation
Friday, May 23, 2014
Drifting Towards War?
By Reginald Johnson
violence spreads in Ukraine, the danger grows of an
eventual confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New YorkUniversity and Princeton said that in the chaos in
Ukraine, “anything can happen….I
think it’s the worst crisis since the Cuban missile crisis.”
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
policy to date in Ukraine is irrational and risks,
possibly, a world war.
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.
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
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.”
Reginald Johnson is a long-time journalist in Connecticut and lives in Bridgeport. He's been a reporter and editor on a number of different publications including the Connecticut Post, The New Haven Register and Fairpress. He's also written for The New York Times, BBC-online, the Op-Ed News and Connecticut Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org