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Until recently most observers felt that a major international conflict was more likely to erupt in the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, between China and the USA, since Europe was no longer regarded as a potential battlefield between superpowers. However, the ongoing fight in Ukraine reminds us of the lessons not learnt from Bosnia in 1914 and from Poland in 1939. Once again Eastern Europe is the powder keg whose deflagration is pushing the world to the brink of intercontinental disaster.
There are no clones in history, only vague lookalikes. A common feature is that a hegemonic bloc is confronted by a ‘revisionist’ power and its allies and a general struggle ensues. Ukraine has been a disputed ground since the 18th century, if not since the Middle Ages and the current coalition of western powers against Russia vividly evokes the 1853-56 Crimean war. Yet this new conflict shows undeniable continuity with the Cold War by its reliance on ideology, at least from the western block’s Side. Moral or political values such as freedom, democracy and respect for territorial integrity are invoked and deemed to justify any and all breaches with simple objectivity.
Russia is increasingly reviled as a combination of the old USSR and the Nazi Reich for attacking a weak ‘democratic’ neighbour and ‘committing atrocities’ while the long-standing US-sponsored enterprise to build up Ukraine as a military bulwark against Russia, a sort of Slavic ‘Anti-Russia’ (not unlike Pakistan was envisaged in British and American ruling circles as a conveniently anti-Indian South Asian pole) is not acknowledged. The intermittent bombings of the Donbass secessionist areas since 2014 by the troops of the Kiev regime are also ignored or excused even though they were tantamount to crimes committed by a state on its own population.
The non-implementation of the Minsk I and II agreements by the Ukrainian Government and the western co-signatories and Zelinsky’s refusal to grant the promised autonomy demanded by the Lugansk and Donetsk enclaves are whitewashed in the western mainstream media which relay only emotional discourses and heartbreaking images while pinning the entire responsibility for this tragedy on the “dictator Putin”, now being turned into a ‘monster’ to whom only the brown shirt and swastika armband remain to be added.
The invasion of Ukraine is being used by the Biden administration to dig an unbridgeable rift between NATO members in Europe and Russia. While weakening the European Union politically and economically in the guise of rallying the ’free world’ behind the Star-spangled banner the United States is forcing its allies on the continent to replace Russian energy and food deliveries with its own supplies and pushing major American weapons sales to drumbeat them into war. US-based Consulting firms and ‘woke’ NGOs play major roles in this strategy of control.
The present European governments are mostly weak or unpopular. France is going into a tightly contested election, Germany is ruled by an inexperienced and faltering coalition, Italy has an unelected international banker as Prime Minister and Boris Johnson is largely discredited. In the US itself the Biden Administration, elected in controversial circumstances, is in rapid decline as revealed by the opinion polls about a fading president, haunted by his son’s tawdry and potentially treasonous activities and threatened by the resurgence of a revanchist Donald Trump. Does it hope to revive itself by leading the ‘free world’ against the old enemy?
Anyway western powers are pooling their resources in the attempt to foment a global league against Russia and backing the Ukrainian Government to the hilt. There is little doubt that, by threatening and cajoling nations into joining the western coalition against Putin, the NATO bloc wishes to universalize and prolong the conflict instead of trying to circumscribe and end it through diplomacy.
Many of the sanctions taken against specific Russian individuals and the citizenry in general evince in their futility that the United States and its confederates have not learnt anything from decades of destructive and yet counterproductive sanctions slapped against Cuba, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and other alleged ‘rogue states’. However in the view of many US strategists a long and debilitating war in Ukraine would bleed Russia, as its own Afghan war bled the USSR in the eighties, while making the EU even more dependent upon Washington as an added benefit.
The RAND 2019 report to the Pentagon about possible strategies to tackle Russia exposes the real reasons for the race to war. Russia’s ability and willingness to challenge Atlanticist supremacy and the Kremlin’s commitment to prevent encirclement by NATO are the main motives. At their core is the longstanding American worry about growing economic and business ties between Germany, France, Italy (the three EU majors) and Russia which could lead to institutional cooperation between the Berlin-driven European Union and the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union. That would, in due course, pave the way for an eventual pan-Asian economic and strategic concord including China, India, Iran, Middle Eastern and East Asian nations.
In that changed geopolitical framework the USA and the Anglosphere would no longer be dominant, the US fiat-Dollar emitted through endless creation of debt would not remain the global reserve currency and there would be no demand and no resources for 800 American military bases and ‘lily pads’ ‘to keep the peace’ on all continents.
To prevent such an outcome, perceived as catastrophic by the US Imperial Establishment Washington has relentlessly expanded NATO upto the borders of Russia and uses ‘all means on the table’. In the last weeks we have witnessed tit-for-tat moves between Russia and the US; the drive to ‘cancel Russia’ and strangle the Russian economy by banning its exports and unplugging it from international financial institutions has led Moscow to anchor the rouble to gold and require payments for its commodities in its own currency. That is a nightmare for treasury officials and financiers in western capitals. In response promptly came the US-sponsored call for ‘regime change’ in Moscow because of ‘crimes against humanity’ allegedly committed by Russian forces; the simultaneous answer has been Russia’s report to the UN security Council about the Pentagon-funded research and development of biological weapons and delivery methods (‘birds of mass destruction’) in Ukrainian labs with alleged ethnically genocidal intent, to which Washington’s response has been embarrassingly equivocal.
The latest salvo comes from the Kiev regime which accused the Kremlin of slaughtering civilians in Bucha although various foreign analysts suspect the Ukrainian Safari Special Forces deployed there after the withdrawal of the Russian troops. Indeed, why would Russia, which wishes to ‘reunite’ at least part of Ukraine to its territory, want to randomly kill civilians it regards as its own people? Despite the violence of the battles Russia has not cut off the vital gas it delivers to its adversary, not switched off the nuclear power plants and has treated both surrendering soldiers and civilians according to the law of war. Would the Kremlin want to worsen its case by deliberately committing barbaric actions?
The western governments and media don’t want to admit that there is also a civil war in Ukraine, a country which is far from homogenous and where the ultra-nationalist paramilitary forces are known to carry out savage repression against pro-Russian citizens which they deem to be traitors.
President Zelensky’s statements are automatically taken at face value by its western patrons, though he has often been creative with the truth since the war began and is demonstrably corrupt. In his blitzkrieg of daily speeches to European parliaments and international institutions, staged by US PR agencies, the Ukrainian head of state is acting as a guided missile on behalf of American policy when he ‘orders’ European governments and companies to cease all activities in Russia and stop buying Russian energy which his own country continues to import. In response to his demands there is a deafening hue and cry to try Putin for crimes against humanity prior to any inquiry about Kiev’s allegations. That would seemingly entail an all-out war for defeating and overthrowing the Russian state. The risk of breaking international diplomatic conventions by seeking to arrest and condemn foreign heads of state who take actions hostile to their adversaries is considerable. As the former RBI chairman Raghuram Rajan pointed out recently, will nations now be under constant threat of ‘weapons of mass economic destruction’ for disobeying a ‘rules based order’ mot made by them and will statesmen become targets of extraterritorial criminal jurisdictions because they ‘crossed lines’ set by the NATO powers?
One can only dread what the next step in this escalade will bring and hope that responsible parties will cool tempers. Otherwise, World War III is around the corner.