US and EU responding with escalation instead of pushing for a political settlement

ukraine war peace

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 is illegal according to international law. It is a war crime. Putin arguably still had diplomatic options open to him. Everyone who is anti-war must condemn this attack. At the same time, it was not unprovoked. Further, the US is responsible for having started off a chain of events that led to the Russian invasion. Despite several warnings over the years from experts in its own country, the US did not back down from its confrontational path. Ultimately therefore, despite its posturing, the US has not acted in Ukraine’s interests.

Anyone who wishes to respond humanely to the developments in Ukraine in the interest of bringing an end to the hostilities as soon as possible must grasp these and other nuances. Unfortunately, they cannot depend on the powerful mainstream media in the US for an accurate, balanced and fair analysis of the issue. Its coverage by and large has been outright one-sided and has failed to provide the context and history that are essential to understanding how the world got to this point. Parts of the mainstream Indian media have been better with respect to balance, because they have included Russian voices. But this is the result less of the media taking an independent view and more a reflection of them echoing the government position, which has been neutral. India, after all, abstained from a UN resolution deploring Russia’s invasion. Some parts of the Indian coverage have also merely echoed talking points raised in the mainstream Western media.

Fortunately, many independent, non-corporate, progressive journalists and academics with expertise and integrity, mostly in the US itself, are courageously filling the massive gap in world coverage. Over the years, these sources have informed my own understanding of developments abroad. Wherever relevant, I have included links to the articles and YouTube discussions that have contributed to my understanding. Readers might find these sources useful in future as well. I have included the names of only those sources that I regularly use.

To begin with, here is a compelling critique of US mainstream TV channels’ coverage of the conflict. In the process, it also offers some crucial context.
>> Useful Idiots
‘Aaron Maté on Ukraine & Russia: Monday Mourning Live with Katie Halper’

Response
How should any right-thinking person who wants an immediate end to death and destruction respond to Russia’s invasion? This is the most urgent question. India should support the public pressure within Russia to end the war. Russian officials are already in talks with Ukraine. As of March 3, Volodymyr Zelinsky, Ukraine’s president, is still saying that he is willing to negotiate with Russia. Instead of encouraging these talks and calling for a ceasefire, the US is relentlessly escalating the military confrontation through belligerent rhetoric and by announcing huge outlays to ship weapons to Ukraine. EU countries, for their part, should have taken an independent stance, because of their proximity to the conflict and dependence on Russian energy, but instead they are following the US like sheep. Germany, the most powerful country in the EU, has said it will increase its defence budget to 2 percent of GDP, reversing its pacifist policy, which it had to adopt after its World War II atrocities.

‘List of Weapons sent by USA to help Ukraine Against Russia in 2022’

U.S. pledges funding, anti-tank weapons to assist Ukraine against Russian

‘European Union announces delivery of weapons to Ukraine, new sanctions on Russia | DW News’

The US has been arming Ukraine for a while. Its further military responses will only enmesh Ukraine in a long civil war, of the kinds that have raged in Iraq, Libya and Syria – as a result of illegal US actions. This response from the West has in turn made Putin raise the stakes and threaten the world with the possibility of a nuclear war. It is sheer insanity for the US and EU to believe that there is a military solution that won’t destroy Ukraine, that won’t hurt Europe, and won’t make the world even more unstable. Everyone should shout from the rooftops for all parties to de-escalate the military confrontation and allow Ukraine and Russia to work towards a political settlement. But the US is not doing this. There are sane voices, however, in the US, Europe and Ukraine.

From the US:

This was an excellent discussion after the invasion.

> Committee for the Republic

‘Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Salon | Ray McGovern, John Mearsheimer’

>> BreakThrough News
‘Ukraine War: Who’s to Blame and What’s the Solution? A Socialist View’

From Europe:
>> DiEM25
‘How to end the war in Ukraine: with Yanis Varoufakis, Volodymyr Ishchenko and more’

From Ukraine:
A Ukrainian Sociologist Explains Why Everything You Know About Ukraine Is Probably Wrong
https://jacobinmag.com/2022/02/us-russia-nato-donbass-maidan-minsk-war

Economic warfare
The West’s sanctions are a form of economic warfare, and represent a parallel escalation to the military one. The sanctions against the Russian Federation were in place even before its invasion of Ukraine. The US has now frozen assets of the Russian central bank. This is an extremely hostile step. This is pushing the confrontation to another level.

‘Russia’s reaction to severe sanctions would be ‘hostile’, strategist says’

Further, one does not know exactly how these sanctions are going to play out, but they will hurt ordinary people in Russia and in other parts of the world. For a moment, think about how fair it would have been if the world had announced sanctions against the US in response to its invasion of Iraq, an invasion that was not only illegal but based on total falsehoods?

‘Sanctions, protests: How Putin’s war is impacting ordinary Russians’

Turning point
Putin did not suddenly wake up one day and invade Ukraine. In the weeks running up to the invasion, he and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, have been saying that the situation in Ukraine was becoming untenable for Russia, and that it had reached a boiling point. The problem goes back much further, at least to 2014. Early that year, Ukraine saw the Maidan uprising, which was partly a genuine protest against alleged corruption in President Viktor Yanukovich’s government. But that was not the only strand. The US opportunistically entered the fray because it did not like Yanukovich’s neutrality: he was pursuing cordial ties with Russia. It fomented a coup, forcing Yanukovich to flee to Russia.

Here is the transcript of a phone call between US diplomats revealing their country’s role in the coup. The transcript was leaked to the press.
>> BBC
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957

Another important strand in the protests consisted of ultra-right-wing and Neo-Nazi groups, such as the Azov Battalion and Right Sector, which continue to exert an influence in Ukraine. The far-right Svoboda party is also an actor, although right now it has only one seat in Ukraine’s parliament.

> Richard Medhurst
‘The CIA-Backed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine’

> TIME
‘Inside A White Supremacist Militia in Ukraine’

Understandably, Russia was angered by the US-sponsored coup, its installing of an anti-Russia government in Ukraine, and its turning a blind eye to the rise of neo-Nazi groups. The new Ukrainian government also made other hostile moves, such as derecognising Russian as an official language, even though 30 percent are native Russian speakers. One has to understand the shared cultural history of these two countries to see why such moves would appear hostile to Russia. We must also remember that Russia suffered the loss of between 25 and 30 million lives, mostly civilian, in World War II, fighting the Nazis, according to estimates. What’s more, Russia inflicted an estimated three-fourths of German casualties, thus playing a major role in defeating Hitler in that war. Experts point out that the two big invasions of Russia, by Hitler, and earlier, by Napoleon, happened via Ukraine, making that country a big security concern for Russia.

People across the political spectrum with some understanding of Russian and Cold War history, from Noam Chomsky to Henry Kissinger — even though the latter is responsible for war crimes of his own — have been arguing that it is in the best interests of all parties and the world for Ukraine to remain neutral.

> Democracy Now
‘Noam Chomsky: After Dangerous Proxy War, Keeping Ukraine Neutral Offers Path to Peace with Russia’

> Europe Matters
‘Noam Chomsky: on the Pandemic, Ukraine crisis & Climate Change’

> Financial Times (This letter is behind a paywall, so I have reproduced it here.)

February 1, 2022: In his article “The empire returns” (The Weekend Essay, Life & Arts, January 28) Serhii Plokhy correctly says that president Vladimir Putin’s demand that Ukraine be barred from Nato is the latest iteration of a Russian policy stretching back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Nato governments have rightly said they are willing to address Russia’s security concerns, but then say in the same breath that Russia has no legitimate security concerns because Nato is a purely defensive alliance. Whether we like it or not, a Nato that now borders Russia and could in future border even more of Russia is seen by Russia as a security concern.
In 2014 Henry Kissinger wrote in the Washington Post that “internationally [Ukraine] should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence, co-operates with the west in most fields, but carefully avoids institutional hostility to Russia.”
A permanent “Finlandisation” of Ukraine would be unrealistic. But it should be possible for Nato, in close association with Ukraine, to put forward detailed proposals to negotiate a new treaty with Russia that engenders no institutional hostility. This would cover: the verifiable withdrawal of nuclear-capable missiles; detailed military confidence-building measures limiting numbers and demarcating deployment; and international agreement on presently contested borders between Russia and Ukraine.

Lord Owen, UK Foreign Secretary 1977-79
Lord Skidelsky, Historian, Fellow of British Academy
Sir Anthony Brenton, British Ambassador to Russia 2004-08
Christopher Granville, Former British Diplomat
Nina Krushcheva, Professor of International Affairs, The New School, New York, US

In the aftermath of the coup in Ukraine, Russia reacted aggressively. It annexed Crimea, a peninsula in Ukraine’s south with a large Russian population and the strategically important port of Sevastopol. After the 214 coup, the US began arming Ukraine, while Russia encouraged separatists in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, consisting of the provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have significant Russian populations. This means that a civil war has been raging there for several years. In 2015, France and Germany brokered a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia, through the Minsk II agreement, named after the Byelorussian capital where it was signed. This followed the failed Minsk I accord. But, according to commentators, even Minsk II was repeatedly violated, with the US continuing to arm Ukraine and with Ukraine’s shelling of Donbas.

The Jimmy Dore Show
‘Truth About Ukraine/Russia NOT What You Think’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm8QfxZ3HHw

The violence and disregard for international law therefore did not begin with Putin’s invasion, but much earlier, in 2014. While we cannot defend Putin’s invasion, we have to see it in light of the US’s actions, which consistently pushed Russia to the brink. Our understanding of any current issue depends upon when in history we begin our story. Also, while the facts may lead us to conclude that both sides are culpable, an honest analysis must apportion the weight of blame based on the historical record.

Here, Scott Ritter, who was a US weapons inspector in Iraq and reported that it had no significant capabilities to produce weapons of mass destruction, explains Putin’s motivations.

‘Putin: Crazy Like a Fox’
https://consortiumnews.com/2022/03/02/putin-crazy-like-a-fox/

>> On Land and Water
‘NATO Too Weak to Face Russia Scott Ritter on Russian Offensive’

For a detailed day-to-day analysis of the war, including troop movements, etc., please read this blog:
https://www.moonofalabama.org/

NATO expansion
The US’s culpability goes even further back, to the years following the break-up of the Soviet Union. In the aftermath of that cataclysmic but bloodless event, the US promised Russia that it would not expand NATO to the newly freed former Soviet republics, such as the Baltic states. Russia agreed to the reunification of Germany on this condition. There was no official treaty but there were many oral agreements that have been documented (see the video below titled ‘Ukraine War Exposes US Hypocrisy, Double Standards & Racism, w/ Ali Abunimah & Rania Khalek’). Yet over time, the US has reneged on this commitment and continued to expand NATO to many of these countries, which have large Russian populations and border Russia. NATO expansion, among other stress points, led to a war between Russia and Georgia, in 2008. The US is therefore fully aware that NATO expansion is a very sensitive issue for Russia. Just imagine how the US would react if a hostile big power places missiles and other weapons on the other side of its border, in Canada and Mexico? Despite all this, the US has kept talking about making Ukraine a part of NATO, which it knows is the ultimate red line for Russia, given the history.

John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, describes this background extremely well in these talks:

> The University of Chicago
‘Why is Ukraine the West’s Fault? Featuring John Mearsheimer’

> King’s Politics
‘No to war in Ukraine’

Other insightful, informative discussions of the history and context are here:

> Empire Files
‘Ukraine: Questions for the US Anti-War Movement w/ Abby Martin & Brian Becker’

> Useful Idiots
‘How the US Caused the Ukraine Crisis – with Branko Marcetic’

> Katie Halper
Chris Hedges On Ukraine, Russia & NATO

Double standards
The scale of the US’s and EU’s double standards is staggering. The US’s illegal regime-change wars in a whole lot of countries have engendered lawlessness in the world, and set a precedent for other countries. The US has announced further military assistance Ukraine, an occupied country, but condemns Palestinians who resist Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Just this May, the US even failed to condemn Israel’s bombing of an apartment building and another building housing Al Jazeera and the Associated Press in Gaza.

Below is a great discussion about this and many other pertinent aspects of this conflict, including how to end it:

> Breakthrough News
‘Ukraine War Exposes US Hypocrisy, Double Standards & Racism, w/ Ali Abunimah & Rania Khalek’

> Richard Medhurst
‘Ukraine Has Exposed Western Hypocrisy’

>> ‘Navigating our Humanity: Ilan Pappé on the Four Lessons from Ukraine’
https://www.palestinechronicle.com/navigating-our-humanity-ilan-pappe-on-the-four-lessons-from-ukraine/

Economic fallout
The war is going to have a major impact on the world economy, including, of course, Russia’s. Here is a discussion about this:

CGTN
‘Cost of Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Sanctions’ Impact on World Economies’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgUvV9iCNss&t=206s

Putin’s Russia
Context and history about Russia are equally crucial. A critic of Putin says that the West may have created hostile conditions for Russia, but that he had seven years to exert diplomatic pressure. Why is he invading now? Because he also has domestic compulsions.

> BreakThrough News
‘How Russia’s War In Ukraine Is Playing Out Inside Russia, w/ Prof. Boris Kagarlitsky’

But let’s not forget that the West supported Putin in the early days, and said nothing then about his human rights violations in Chechnya. Perhaps this was because Chechnya had a huge Muslim population, and the West’s corporate sector wanted to make a killing in post-Soviet Russia’s sale of assets. This was an example of utter opportunism.

> Double Down News
‘Jeremy Corbyn on Putin and Ukraine’

> Yale University
‘Vladimir Pozner: How the United States Created Vladimir Putin’

Not only that, Putin apparently functions with the support of a few hundred oligarchs. Where do you think these oligarchs stash their money? Hint: In the capital of a small island.

> PoliticsJOE
‘Interview: Expert explains Russian oligarchs’ dirty money’

The horrendous death and destruction in Ukraine can stop if the West agrees immediately to discussions with Russia and addresses its security concerns, and both sides begin to back off. Otherwise, the whole world will lose, and Ukraine most of all.

Sumana Ramanan is an independent journalist and literary curator. She has been an editor with Hindustan Times, Economic & Political Weekly, Scroll.in, and earlier worked for several other leading publications.

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One Comment

  1. Biden mah time says:

    But no one is asking the biggest question of them all: are the Russian soldiers doubly Vaxxed? If not, how can they be allowed into Ukraine?