Russian and Donbas militia forces now control most Donbas territory and a large part of the Black Sea coast as Ukraine claims 200‒500 combat losses each day.
As the U.S. and its NATO allies met in Spain and Germany during the last week of June in the midst of four full months of war in Ukraine, they were confronted with frustration and hard choices. Russian and Donbas militia forces now control most of the Donbas region and a large part of the Black Sea coast. Deadly Ukrainian shelling continues to kill people in the Donetsk area, but there is little doubt of the outcome for that region.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, is reluctant to negotiate peace, hoping that a flood of U.S. and NATO weapons and money might help reverse some of the heavy losses his regime has endured. Zelensky has claimed recently that Ukraine is suffering between 200 and 500 combat losses each day. Western media is repeating that claim but, like Zelensky, without offering any evidence. Perhaps it is true, but perhaps it is part of the effort to press for more reinforcements from NATO. Desertions and refusals to fight are also high, and Russian artillery is destroying new NATO weapons even before they can be deployed.
The West’s capacity to supply Ukraine’s weapon needs is in doubt, as reported by British analyst Alexander Mercouris. Only a fraction of the $53 billion in U.S. aid approved recently in Washington actually leaves the U.S. Most of it goes instead to U.S. military contractors, while a shocking portion goes to fund Ukraine’s government operations, which would grind to a halt without it. It is now clear that only massive U.S./NATO support keeps the war going.
NATO “unity” has been overstated: Turkey has ceased dragging its feet on NATO membership applications from Sweden and Finland (new members into the alliance require unanimous approval by existing members) but Hungary, Spain and Portugal are opposing sanctions against Russia or raising doubts, due to a boomerang effect on their fragile economies.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the loudest U.S. ally, has been forced to resign soon due to a series of political scandals. In France, President Macron lost his party’s parliamentary majority in the June 2022 legislative election. Jens Plötner, foreign policy adviser to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, declared on June 20 that Germans need to have a serious discussion about the “exciting and relevant” issue of a long-term relationship with Russia—a signal that Germany may wish for a more conciliatory approach with Moscow. In the U.S., President Biden and his Democratic Party face an electoral debacle this fall as polls show their electoral support continuing to drop.
German and French leaders continue to play a double game, just as they did with the 2015 Minsk 2 accord—feigning interest in “peace” while condemning Russia and imposing harsh sanctions. In fact, all Western European leaders are torn between slavish subservience to the U.S. and the economic hardships caused by the sanctions boomerang.
Meanwhile in Madrid, Biden said NATO would be “ready for threats in all directions.” He announced a permanent headquarters for the U.S. 5th Army Corps in Poland plus two more F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the United Kingdom. Further “air defense and other capabilities” will go to Italy and Germany, and there will be additional rotational deployments of NATO forces in Romania and the Baltic region. The new UK army chief announced plans for what amounts to more war against Russia.
Yes to Peace! No to NATO!
Across Europe and North America, broad peace forces have mobilized, saying “Yes to Peace! No to NATO!” The “Peace Summit 2022 Madrid” issued a declaration on June 25 saying “the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are singled out as military adversaries and, for the first time, the Global South appears within the scope of the Alliance’s intervention capabilities…The new NATO has certified that from north to south and east to west, it is prepared to intervene outside the imperative mandates of the UN Charter, as it did in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.”
In the United States, the Peace in Ukraine website says “This devastating war is killing thousands, displacing millions, and causing hunger, inflation, unrest, and increased militarism globally. It is not far-fetched to foresee a protracted war that goes on for years.” (To be clear, it is the sanctions boomerang of the West that is causing economic pain and dislocation in the West along with humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine. The war and the economic and political disruptions it is causing could end very quickly were the U.S. and NATO to urge Zelensky to sue for peace.)
The Peace in Ukraine statement denounces “the decades-long U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the seven years of fighting in the Donbas, and the interest the U.S. has in bleeding the Russian economy dry.”
Anti-war protests took place in many places in the world (notably in Madrid where NATO will hold a summit meeting on June 29 and 30), in many U.S. cities, and spanning the globe via a 24-hour “Peace Wave” streaming on Zoom. The main slogans at most of them are “End the War in Ukraine; No War with Russia; Ceasefire Now; Negotiate, Don’t Escalate.”
“Confusion of the American People”
The Peace in Ukraine call highlights the “confusion of the American people. They have tremendous sympathy for Ukrainians, but don’t understand that the way to save Ukrainian lives is to stop the war.”
Too many peace advocates in the world focus first on denouncing what is termed Russia’s “criminal invasion” of Ukraine. That approach neglects to inquire into the sources of the conflict and ends up simply echoing the neocons in Washington and the mainstream media. In May, it led all members of the “Squad” (liberal members of Congress) to vote with the rest of congressional Democrats for the Biden administration’s humongous military aid package to Ukraine. This meant endorsing the “official” narrative condemning Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, which aimed to crush the neo-Nazi presence in Ukraine’s political life and oppose NATO expansion up to Russia’s western border with Ukraine.
The “aid” vote in May was, in reality, a vote for more endless war, for regime change in Russia, and even for risking a global conflict with unthinkable risks. And of course, it was a vote to shelve the “Build Back Better” package of social and economic reforms introduced by the Biden administration in October 2021.
In Canada, an anti-Russia approach is absent from a statement by the Peace and Justice Network. It urges “Stop the Weapons; Stop the War; Stop NATO.” It goes on to explain, “We will be standing in solidarity with the European activists who are organizing a major demonstration against NATO outside the [NATO] summit [in Spain] and with dock workers who are blocking weapons shipments to Ukraine.” Even better would be to more directly explain how the war is NATO’s fault, not Russia’s.
Russia’s “Isolation” Overstated
Outside the United States, the “blame Russia” big lie has little credibility. On June 20, only four of 55 invited African leaders joined a Zoom call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky that was organized by France and Germany. Multipolarista’s Ben Norton reports “Western governments have tried to rally the nations of Africa to join their war on Russia. But the vast majority of the continent has ignored their pressure campaign.”
France’s major newspaper Le Monde described Zelensky’s message on Zoom as “an address that the African Union (AU) has delayed [receiving] for as long as possible and has been keen to keep discreet, almost secret.” This was a clear sign of Africa’s overwhelming neutrality in the proxy war between the West and Russia.
A March 28 report in the UK daily The Guardian said many African countries “remember Moscow’s support for liberation from colonial rule, and a strong anti-imperialist feeling remains.” The report said a significant number of African leaders are “calling for peace but blaming NATO’s eastward expansion for the war, complaining of Western ‘double standards’ and resisting all calls to criticize Russia.”
The Multipolarista report adds that “Global South nations representing the majority of the world’s population have either blamed U.S./NATO for the Ukraine war or are neutral” – including China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Congo, Iran, South Africa, Mexico, Tanzania and Vietnam.
Western sanctions have not worked out as planned. “Like all battle plans, the original trans-Atlantic blueprint for imposing severe and crippling sanctions on Russia collided with reality after the war actually began,” Andrew Weiss, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The New York Times.
In mid-June, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) attracted representatives from 141 countries and more than 1,500 companies from across Russia and Eurasia. A report by the Forum on its proceedings said commercial agreements worth trillions of rubles were signed, as well as international and inter-regional cooperation agreements in the areas of banking, high tech, education and science.
“Step by step, we will normalize the economic situation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the gathering. “We have stabilized the financial markets, the banking system and the trade network. Now we are busy saturating the economy with liquidity and working capital to maintain the stable operation of enterprises and companies, employment and jobs.”
Putin also said, “The rising prices, accelerating inflation, shortages of food and fuel, petrol, and problems in the energy sector are the result of system-wide errors the current U.S. administration and European bureaucracy have made in their economic policies… It is not difficult to foresee coming developments. A shortage of fertilizer means a lower harvest and a higher risk of an under-supplied global food market. Prices will go even higher, which could lead to hunger in the poorest countries. And it will be fully on the conscience of the U.S. administration and the European bureaucracy.”
He added that “this problem did not arise… in the past three or four months. And certainly, it is not Russia’s fault as some try to declare, shifting the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the world economy to our country.”
The Russian president added that “Russia is also able to scale up its food and fertilizer exports… Grain exports in the next season can be increased to 50 million tons.” He said that, “as a priority, we will supply the countries that need food most of all, where the number of starving people could increase—first of all, African countries and the Middle East.”
Right after the SPIEF Forum, there was a BRICS summit in Beijing of the leaders of China, Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil. Along with a full range of economic issues, the summit “discussed the situation in Ukraine and [said] we support talks between Russia and Ukraine. We have also discussed our concerns over the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine and expressed our support to efforts of the UN Secretary-General, UN Agencies and International Committee of the Red Cross to provide humanitarian assistance in accordance with the basic principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality,” as established in the UN.
Russian Aggression or NATO Aggression?
The avalanche of Western propaganda charging “Russian aggression” does not change the fact that Russia responded to years of provocations, after millions of Russians living inside the existing borders of Ukraine became targeted for choosing political autonomy from Ukraine’s fascist-infiltrated national government. Some 14,000 soldiers and civilians have been killed between 2014 and early 2022 by the internal war launched by Kyiv in the spring of 2014 to crush resistance to the coup d’etat of that year and crush demands for autonomy.
Ellen Taylor, daughter of Nuremberg prosecutor Telford Taylor, wrote recently that “Russia, convinced that an attack was imminent, despairing of negotiations, persuaded by information contained in a hacked email and aware of the danger of waiting any longer, launched its ‘special operation.’” Taylor highlighted that, from February 15 to 24, 2022, Ukrainian army shelling in the Donbas region increased daily from 41 to more than 2,000 on successive days. “NATO’s intention was to precipitate an attack,” Taylor wrote.
“From a legal perspective it was imperative not to be identified as the aggressor. Russia was aware of this too.” She added that Russian leadership had “the responsibility to protect” its people.
Taylor concluded that “the crime of conspiracy to commit a war of aggression… has to be laid at the feet of NATO and the U.S.” She added that “the often-repeated claim that Russia’s aggression was unprovoked, is preposterous.”
U.S. Goal: Dismember Russia
Much of Ukraine was part of the Russian Tsarist empire for centuries. Donbas is considered by many to be “the heart of Russia,” as a propaganda poster by the new, Soviet republics issuing from the 1917 Revolution put it in 1921. And the people of Donbas played a decisive role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Following the demise of the USSR in 1990-91, future U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to slice up Russia into several smaller countries. Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski proposed a “loosely confederated Russia—composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic.” He wrote, “what happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy.” He added that “a sovereign Ukraine is a critically important component” of such a policy.
Recent events have revealed that a key goal of U.S. foreign policy is to dismember Russia. On June 24, the U.S. government’s “Helsinki Commission” held a congressional hearing plotting ways to break up Russia. This was discussed in the name of a supposed “decolonization” of parts of the Russian Federation. Participants at the hearing urged more support to separatist movements inside Russia.
The prospect of fracturing and weakening the Russian Federation is a key reason why the U.S. is demonizing Russia, especially the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. The U.S. followed a similar playbook against Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Slobodan Milošević of Yugoslavia and Muammar Gaddhafi of Libya. The “Big Lie” strategy uses the power of mass media to establish a narrative that becomes irrefutable through constant repetition.
Russia’s defense of the Donbas and other Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine portends a reversal of this U.S. strategy. This is a large reason why Russia has concentrated its military efforts in these parts of Ukraine. It has completed much of the objective of its intervention to “liberate” Donbas from Ukraine’s army and its paramilitary, extreme-right battalions.
Of note is that Ukraine’s electoral map from 2007 simultaneously reflects the country’s ethnic composition almost exactly. (See the following two maps.) Ukraine’s current leadership and its U.S./NATO backers would like to avoid a settlement that reflects the demographic and historical reality of the country. But this is precisely one key issue that should guide negotiations for a peace agreement. A peace agreement reflecting Russia’s legitimate concerns (voiced for many months and years) would establish a viable basis of cooperation by Russia with Ukraine and with Europe.
Getting to this type of truly viable peace requires complete withdrawal of NATO forces from Ukraine and an end to sanctions against Russia. It would require recognition of political self-determination for the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine. (Ideally, a peace settlement in Ukraine would see the dismantling of NATO.)
History of NATO is covered with the blood of millions of civilians
One of the groups participating in the Madrid Peace Summit is the Internationalist Anti-Imperialist Front. In a statement it says “the history of NATO and the U.S. is covered with the blood of millions of civilians, victims of the bombing of cities, towns and villages, of the pain of populations condemned to hunger, misery and forced migration due to the dozens of wars promoted by the sinister political-military alliance or by some of its partners using all its infrastructure. Added to this are the coups d’état and military dictatorships promoted by imperialism, the criminal blockades and the open or covert aggression against nations and peoples who fight for their sovereignty. And its consequences in failed states, after their military intervention, which facilitate the plundering of resources and monopolization of markets for Western imperialism.”
The statement continues, “NATO’s relentless eastward expansion, the increasing militarization of the European Union under pressure from NATO, and the recent request by Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance add more instability and risk to the world.
“Faced with the serious danger that the warmongering spiral of NATO and the U.S. fuels new wars and provokes the division of the world into two blocs that will lead to a third nuclear world war, the Internationalist Anti-Imperialist Front demands:
- Immediate withdrawal from NATO and closure of U.S. bases.
- Drastic reduction in military spending.
- The cessation of all military activity outside our territory.
- No to the shipment and trade of weapons to countries in conflict and war.
- Signing of the 2017 ‘Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.’
- Measures against the growth of fascism that fuels wars.”
U.S. “Must Remain Dominant Force in World”—Pompeo
Michael Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State under Trump, said June 24 the US-EU-NATO alliance is seeking to “prevent the formation of a pan-Eurasian colossus” that could challenge Washington’s empire. The United States must remain “the dominant force in the world,” and “for an awfully long time to come,” Pompeo insisted.
The new cold war between the US-EU-NATO bloc on one side and the Eurasian bloc led by China and Russia on the other is a battle over “economic hegemony,” and is rooted in control over fossil fuels and other resources, Pompeo declared.
The former CIA and State Department chief’s speech, “War, Ukraine, and a Global Alliance for Freedom,” was delivered at the Hudson Institute, a neoconservative Washington think tank. The Hudson Institute is financed by the Pentagon and large corporations such as ExxonMobil and billionaire oligarchs like the Kochs and Walton family.
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About the Author
Dee Knight is a member of the DSA International Committee’s Anti-War Subcommittee.
He is the author of My Whirlwind Lives: Navigating Decades of Storms, soon to be published by Guernica World Editions.
Dee can be reached at: email@example.com.