“What our leaders and pundits never let slip is that the terrorists – whatever else they might be – might also be rational human beings; which is to say that in their own minds they have a rational justification for their actions.”―
Humans are a tribal species. Perhaps that is why our knee-jerk reaction to conflict is to pick a side and dig in our heels, hoping to land on the winning side of history. This, unfortunately, has led to the great false dichotomies of the past 20 years. You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists! Does this sound familiar? This is the reaction that we’ve seen thus far since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine last week. According to the left, any attempt to understand the conflict is an admission of Soviet sympathies. That is a bizarre accusation coming from actual Marxists.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine caught many by surprise. It’s hard to know what is true and what is false when it comes to the American press. Since the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, the American public has been subjected to what can only be described as an onslaught of domestic propaganda. The military build-up on Ukraine’s border was covered in such a way as to suggest a distraction from tanking polls at best, diplomatic leverage at the worst. Both Ukraine’s and Russia’s governments downplayed the situation in the days preceding as well. Ultimately, what we have witnessed in the ensuing days following Russia’s invasion is nothing new and reads like a replay of the Russo Georgian War of 2008.
In 2008 during the height of US interventions in the Middle East, during a contentious election year, and sensing political turmoil in the West, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin saw an opportunity to recognize pro-Russian separatist regions in the nation of Georgia. Consequently, they invaded and occupied them to bolster their independence. We have seen a carbon copy of this play out in Ukraine thus far.
In Ukraine, Putin first recognized the pro-Russian separatist regions in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic as independent states. He then proceeded to surround Ukraine on all sides, tightening the Kremlin’s noose around Kyiv. Given the large military presence now surrounding the whole of Ukraine, it remains to be seen if this will be the extent of Russia’s offensive.
Vladimir Putin has stated his interest in reuniting the ethnic Russian regions of the former Soviet Union to join his defensive alliance, CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization). He appears to be doing this one nation-state at a time. If you are a consumer of the western press, you’d be led to believe it is the act of a maniacal man and unprovoked aggression.
Since the end of the Cold War, it has been the policy of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to practice interventionism and offensive warfare where economic interests prevailed. In Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, the NATO alliance aggressively sought to expand its influence around the world, while expanding its membership. This expansion has met with most of Eastern Europe and former Soviet Bloc nations bordering Russia. Since 1999, fourteen new nations have been admitted to NATO, largely in Eastern Europe. In many ways, Ukraine has been a NATO proxy despite not holding official membership. The United States and NATO have spent billions of dollars in an attempt to build a pro-Western ally on the border of Russia.
In 2010, Ukraine elected a pro-Russian president in Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych and Putin signed an agreement to build a Russian naval base on the Crimean peninsula. In 2014, NATO fostered a pro-Western Ukrainian coup and replaced Yanukovych with hand-picked Arseniy Yatsinyuk. This was the last straw for Putin and the impetus for the 2014 Russian annex of the Crimean peninsula to prevent NATO from building a Ukrainian naval base in a strategic port on the Black Sea bordering Russia. Had you only read the Western press, you might be fooled into believing this was purely the act of a mad man.
Of the stated reasons for the current invasion of Ukraine, targeting neo-fascists or nazis sticks out as hyperbole. The way in which these terms are thrown around in the United States suggests cheap labels designed to evoke emotions and garner disfavor of opposition. Unbeknownst to the public, Putin uses these terms literally. It has been well covered in the press elsewhere that anti-Russian dissidents installed in Ukraine by the Obama Administration include high-ranking members of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, such as Oleh Tyanhybok. This policy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” was also seen in US interventions arming ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Al-Nusra to depose Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Ultimately, Russian aggression seems targeted at a window of opportunity with US leadership ill-equipped to counter, following the bungling of the US pullout of Afghanistan that saw fourteen thousand US persons and $80 billion in arms abandoned. Additionally, though poorly publicized, the Biden family has a significant amount of exposure surrounding the role of Hunter Biden on the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and the resulting financial kickbacks to the Biden family during the Obama Administration. The accusations go further, with one of Biden’s business partners at his firm Rosemont Seneca being Chris Heinz, the stepson of then-Secretary of State John Kerry. This affair was the impetus for the first partisan impeachment of then-President Donald Trump in 2019 and was thus dismissed by a leftist press.
In his Blowback series of books, former CIA consultant and political scientist Chalmers Johnson identified the United States’ policy of foreign regime change as the impetus for many geopolitical consequences that are unforeseen by the American public. They are unforeseen because many of these actions are done covertly and with little public knowledge. This appears to be the case in the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is not to say that the United States is responsible for Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. This is to say without covert regime change and NATO encroachment on Russian borders, an invasion is far less likely.
(I found this video at a later date, but perfectly explains the current conflict from 7 years ago.)