The U.S. establishment called the 2014 overthrow of President Victor Yanukovych in Ukraine a “revolution.” But given his commitment to social justice and equality, former CIA agent-turned-CIA-whistleblower Philip Agee would have known better. He would call it more accurately a violent, CIA-backed coup.
Agee would have recognized the usual pattern within the United States’s imperialist, foreign policy: to protect U.S. interests in its attempt to make Ukraine a market satellite, even though the latter is on the other side of the world. Agee would have been aware of the imposition of private monopolies characteristic of capitalism, or what is called neoliberalism. The idea of taking advantage of the wealth, resources and labor in the former Soviet republic as it has done in other nations.
Another familiar element in the imperial pattern would be the supporting of rights abusers in and out of government. The CIA is particularly known to support right-wing tyrants and death squads in the nations of Latin America, e.g., during the 1980s. It imposed what was called “enhanced interrogation techniques” when the U.S. Empire illegally invaded Iraq in 2003.
And it supported religious fanatics in Afghanistan when the Soviet Union invaded that nation in 1978 to aid a socialist government and its supporters. Agee was aware of all this, having been an agent initially assigned to Ecuador, Uruguay and Mexico; and knowing later what the CIA was really doing in places like Nicaragua, Grenada, Cuba, Angola, the Middle East, etc.
Agee had extensive knowledge of the National Endowment for Democracy, actually a CIA front. In an interview of Agee published by Source Watch (March 14, 2005), he revealed that the NED had connections to both the Republican and Democratic parties through two foundations: the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). This really is not surprising since both parties have the same ideological objective, i.e., the maintenance and expansion of capital, usually at the expense of labor.
The NED’s so-called emphasis has been on the promotion of democracy, but Agee knew better. It is democracy with quotations marks. Agee also mentioned that the NED was/is a private foundation. According to him, “There is nothing really private about it, and all its money comes from the Congress.” Agee added that, “when they say the promotion of democracy, or civic education, or fortifying civil society, what they really mean is using those euphemisms to cover funding to certain political forces and not to others.” Specifically, funding opposition to “hostile” governments and funding “friendly” governments opposing a more genuine opposition.
The NED was created in November 1983 by then-CIA Director William Casey. According to Kit Klarenberg in his newsletter and as published in the Monthly Review (July 1, 2022), Casey would utilize the NED as a “public mechanism to support opposition groups, activist movements and media outlets overseas that would engage in propaganda and political activism to disrupt, destabilize and ultimately displace ‘enemy’ regimes.”
The CIA, along with the NED, focused on Ukraine in 2012. Along with the CIA’s destabilization campaigns, the NED funded 65 projects in Ukraine, spending about $20 million. According to the late investigative journalist Robert Parry, the projects were “a shadow political structure of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrainian government didn’t act as desired.”
And under Yanukovych, the Ukrainian government did not act as desired. Initially, Yanukovych had wanted a neutral Ukraine, dealing with both the West and Russia. But that was scrapped, with Yanukovych favoring a more, fair deal with Russia. This was a no-no, as it would not fully satisfy the U.S.’s imperial interests, as well as the interests of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Thus, the eventual coup, causing Yanukovych to flee to Russia in 2014. The Western media went into denial regarding the cause of the coup, not seeing the CIA and NED as major contributors to it, including the aiding of the Ukrainian right, where the latter gained prominence. Agee would have recognized the Ukrainian right for what it was: an “opposition” comprised of Nazis and fascists.
CIA paramilitaries have been in Ukraine since 2014, advising and training the Ukrainians opposed to the separatists in the Donbas region and later against the February 2022 Russian invasion. The training of Nazis and fascists is already known and Agee would not have been surprised at this. After all, worldwide, “democratic” opposition supported by the U.S. and, to a degree, NATO, has been more associated with the far right (and neo-liberals) than any real democratic movement. And the U.S./NATO alliance, with the CIA and NED contributing, is doing something similar in Ukraine.
Benjamin Norton wrote a piece published in Multipolarista (March 18, 2022) detailing the training of Ukrainian forces by the CIA. Deriving this information from Yahoo News (March 16, 2022), Norton wrote that CIA paramilitaries “began traveling to Ukraine in 2014 to train and advise forces to fight against Russian-speaking Ukrainian militants in the eastern Donbas region.” The people of the Donbas had a legitimate reason for wanting independence. After Yanukovych was overthrown, “Washington installed a pro-NATO puppet regime that repressed the rights of the Russian-speaking minority in the east of the country.” The covert training program by the CIA developed “Ukrainian special operations units, teaching them ‘irregular warfare’ tactics.” The CIA also developed “secure communications systems for the Ukrainian forces.”
Not only the CIA is training Ukrainian forces. The U.S. military is also contributing to their training and sending “large numbers of weapons to Ukraine.” The U.S. military was also “developing snipers and teaching fighters how to use Javelin anti-tank missiles and M141 Bunker Defeat Munitions.”
After the Russian invasion, “the United States and other NATO member states sent the country at least 17,000 anti-tank weapons, including 2,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.” Norton made mention of these weapons ending up in the hands of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, including the Azov Batallion.
Western media sources have said or implied that the fighting is strictly between Russians and Ukrainians. Not so says Norton: “In reality, researchers at the Pentagon-backed RAND Corporation admitted that the vast majority” of fighters opposing Ukraine forces are locals and not part of the Russian military.
What the U.S./NATO alliance wants is an insurgency against Russian forces and the Donbas rebels. What Agee would probably say is that this insurgency has nothing to do with the welfare of ordinary Ukrainians. Quite the contrary, it has been a death trap and the obvious reason why many refugees are fleeing Ukraine into neighboring countries. It has nothing to do with protecting the sovereignty of Ukraine. As mentioned earlier, the U.S.’s goal is trying to make Ukraine a market satellite.
In the publication, Responsible Statecraft (June 27, 2022), Kelley Beaucar Vlahos wrote that the U.S. establishment will not openly admit that the U.S. military is involved militarily in Ukraine. Vlahos mentions that the CIA has been operating in Ukraine for some time, gleaning the information from The New York Times. And that U.S. and European commandos are also involved. “Sounds like Americans are in this war, like it or not,” wrote Vlahos. The Biden administration “wants to have it both ways: assure the American people that it is being ‘restrained’ and that we are not ‘at war’ with the Russians, but doing everything but planting a U.S. soldier and a flag inside of Ukraine.”
The CIA has been increasingly in an “operational combat focus” mode since 9/11, according to Vlahos. The CIA has been running secret prisons in other countries, torturing “enemies,” and using armed drones and commando teams to wipe out “enemies.” CIA misdeeds are essentially still secret, where perhaps “two percent of Congress through the House and Senate intelligence committees is aware the CIA is operating in Kyiv but like everything the whole process has a whiff of retroactive rubberstamping with no room or (interest) for debate in Congress.”
Vlahos quoted a tweet from Jack Murphy, journalist and Afghanistan/Iraq veteran: “I don’t think people realize that right now the spigot from Congress is fully open. Money, weps [weapons], intel, whatever they need. The American public is not being appropriately informed about what our government is up to as basically every single op DOD/CIA proposes is getting the green light.”
There is another, but just as dangerous, motive the U.S. empire has in mind: weaken Russia through this war and the imposition of sanctions. U.S. leaders and their supporters still have not gotten over the Cold War mentality.
Rather than cooperation, the U.S. seeks adversaries and in turn to provoke hostilities against them. Agee would know all too well about this line of thinking: portray Russia, and China, etc., as evil oppressors that want to dominate the world. In reality, it is the U.S., and NATO, that want to maintain a world order dominated by the West, with the U.S. leading the way.
The U.S.’s NATO allies have also been playing a role in fueling the war between Russia and Ukraine. For example, Britain, France and Canada have special operational forces near the front lines to train Ukrainian forces, according to Kyle Anzalone, opinion editor of Antiwar.com, in a report published by the Scheer Post.
So, the allies are helping the U.S. Empire with this imperial venture. Rather than being dissolved as the Warsaw Pact was, NATO’s role has expanded as an imperial force, thus violating its original role of solely being a Cold War obstacle to the USSR’s “aggression.” For the U.S. and NATO, fueling a new Cold War against Russia compliments the search to find “adversaries” that will provoke further hostilities in the name of expanding capital. Agee would probably agree that this is a new Cold War and would condemn the U.S./NATO alliance for instigating it.
Philip Agee’s son Chris Agee, the Executive Editor of CovertAction Magazine, has had positive things to say about his father. Writing a piece in the NACLA publication (January 9, 2009), Chris Agee wrote that his father taught him, e.g., “about the third world and various independence movements.” No doubt, if he were alive today, Agee would have had a discussion with his son about the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Both would have understood the pattern of U.S./NATO imperialism, and CIA interference, and how it applies to Ukraine.
Chris Agee quoted a passage from his father’s first book, CIA Diary: Inside the Company, which has some relevance to Ukraine: “The difficult admission is that I became a servant of the capitalism I rejected. I became one of its secret policemen. The CIA, after all, is nothing more than the secret police of American capitalism, plugging up leaks in the political dam night and day so that shareholders of U.S. companies operating in poor countries can continue enjoying the rip-off.”
U.S. companies are indeed profiting off the Russia-Ukraine war—companies from the arms industry. And they are enjoying the rip-off, accumulating huge profits at the expense of ordinary Ukrainians. Meanwhile, the morally bankrupt Ukrainian government is benefitting from the aid given to it by the U.S./NATO alliance.
Philip Agee not only condemned CIA misdeeds, he also outed CIA agents. Another quote by Chris Agee from his father’s book, CIA Diary: “We already know enough of what the CIA does to resolve to oppose it. The CIA is one of great forces promoting political repression in countries where minority regimes that serve a privileged and powerful elite. One way to neutralize the CIA’s support to repression is to expose its officers so that their presence in foreign countries becomes untenable.”
If Philip Agee were alive today, could he possibly expose CIA agents in Ukraine? It may be more difficult since the international situation has changed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the Left had momentum, which made it easier for Philip Agee to expose CIA agents compared to now with the Left on the defensive.
The only revolution the U.S. was involved in was its own. It also contributed to defeating Nazism and fascism during the World War II. Other than that, it has supported counter-revolutions with the CIA playing a major role.
In Ukraine, the pattern has continued with the CIA aiding and training Ukrainian Nazis. Philip Agee would not have been surprised.
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About the Author
David Starr acknowledged his interest in politics in 1986 when he lived in Hawai’i.
From there, he became active, joining such groups as the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Association (LACASA), the Hawai’i Union of Socialists (HUS) and Ka Lehui Hawai’i (The Hawaiian Nation).
Starr also created a publication entitled Voices of Change, and had articles published in the Honolulu Weekly and Toward Freedom during the 1990s.
Now Connecticut-based, Starr has published many pieces in Reader Supported News, the Daily Kos, and has been published in the LA Progressive.
David can be reached at email@example.com.
Just emailed the writer the comment following, not realizing there was a comment section here:
Kudos for your article on Agee and the CIA. Brilliant.
One semi-caveat, will the machinations of the CIA are often successful, they are usually short -term and there is always blowback, as was the case in Iran, Afghanistan, and many countries in Latin America. In many countries, US embasssies and consulates must be a priori regarded as subversive. While the CIA subverted Ukraine, it has also managed to enlarge the Russian Federation, which stands to add substantial resource chunks of the Ukraine to the Federation. Remember the movie “How the West was Won”? It was won by white people from the East. Now the “West” which is the US, Europe and Japan are being “won” — once again by the “East” – China and Russia..
Great article . REALLY!
Julian Macfarlane (Tokyo)
Thank you for your feedback. Amazing how the U.S./NATO alliance ignores its own violation of Ukrainian sovereignty while accusing Russia of an “unprovoked” invasion.
Thanks I was going ask if Chris was related to Phillip. I got the book when it first came out and it confirmed everything I thought of the cia. The votes in and it went all Russia but sadly Amerika will have it’s puppet double down.
Thank you for the reply. Yeah, Chris is Philip’s son. What the U.S./NATO alliance is trying to do is make Ukraine an all-out, market satellite. Its sovereignty is irrelevant to the alliance.