By Issa Khalaf
War is the dark side of the human species, its rationalizations and justifications ubiquitous. Ukraine seems like a victim, the asymmetrical underdog. Those who care about Palestine (and elsewhere) have a deep knowledge of violent oppression and injustice, of innocent anguish. Upon critical scrutiny, virtually no war can be judged to be just. All of us, seeing the victim’s humanity in ourselves, instantly, emotionally side with the little guy and our outraged disgust rises at this activity of collective, organized violence.
These emotions, however, can be particularly misleading and exclude a whole set of critical analyses. There are legal, political, historical, philosophical and moral dimensions to any conflict or dispute; favorable moral and legal comparison of Ukraine and Palestine not only do not comport to definitive observation, analysis, and conclusion, but the prevailing Western narrative towards Russia is vehemently iniquitous and completely out of touch with reality.
The nauseating hypocrisy of those who’ve ruled the world in the “modern period” is clearly on display for the vast majority of peoples and most states in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, who sense the disarray, even crumbling, of the Western-dominated international order. They are not alone: US intelligence analyses see the impending great shift in power centers from West to (Eurasian) East and even give a prognosticative date of 2030.
In this article, I will discuss only the Russia/Ukraine/West war. I plan the following one that will argue the case that, in fact, Ukraine is neither morally nor legally equivalent to Palestine, support for Ukraine and Palestine is not required to maintain consistency of political, legal and moral principles and does not undermine advocacy for Palestine, on the contrary.
The war in Ukraine, like any war’s attendant horror, upheaval, unpredictability, and civilian anguish, should not have happened and could have been avoided even until recent months. Factually, Russia did not want it, has no ambitions or capacity for a rebooted Soviet Union, contrary to what many puerile, propagandistic Western detractors assert, but has repeatedly warned and entreated about US/NATO expansion eastward. (Yes, Moscow emphatically desired a stable, secure, normal Europe.) This expansion and its ramifications absolutely pose an existential threat to Russia. Unlike the warring by others against fragile states and vulnerable societies in faraway lands on the pretext of national security threat, Russia’s fears are not a fantasy or a diabolical pretext, and its national security peril is literally at its doorstep.
The Ukrainian state is US/Western controlled and, in its alliance and arming, is effectively NATO-like. Washington, according to coup-happy Victoria Nuland in 2014, pumped some $5 billion into Ukraine since the Western-intelligence induced “Orange” revolution in 2004; an additional $15-$18 billion in arms, loans, and grants (from the US and EU) were poured into Ukraine since the 2013-2014 CIA-backed, far-right enforced regime change of the democratically elected Ukrainian government and until before the war began.
With on-the-ground CIA direction, power in Ukraine was consolidated among a small sociopolitical base of venal Russophobes, political pluralism representing genuinely alternative visions to the essentially nationalist, ultranationalist, pro-NATO parties disbanded. The Ukraine army, neo-fascist death squads, and small, Nazi-throwback extreme right-wing parties, celebrated by the new leaders and incorporated into the Ukrainian state, went on a repression spree, a terror campaign, to crush protests and dissent against those who were unhappy with what transpired and to erase all things Russian, including an eight-year shelling and sniping war on civilians designed to create terror and ethnic cleansing in eastern Donbass. This was not a democracy but a monopoly on power to consolidate a vociferously, fanatically anti-Russian state.
Ukraine is (or now, was) merely a platform for a Western proxy war against Russia, a forward operations base, a front line state, its “foreign policy” directed by the American proconsul, its institutions “advised” by American/Western intelligence functionaries and embassy officials, whose job since 2014 was to ensure continuing aggravation and antagonism in Donbass to elicit, in fact, a Russian response justifying long-prepared sanctions, escalation and pretext for “confronting” Russia.
Rather than seeking good relations with both Russia and the West to achieve neutrality, stability, and prosperity, remain free of geopolitical blocs and nuclear capability, reduce suspicions and hatreds, the deeply corrupt and fragile Ukrainian state since the 2014 coup eagerly went along with the West. In all of its glorious irrationality and myopia, the regime miscalculated miserably, believing the US actually cared about Ukraine other than a forward base for its own ends and that NATO would risk war with Russia over it.
Rather than seeking and facilitating, finally, a secure, stable, prosperous Europe after the Cold War by transforming European security to include Russia and attenuating historical animosities and suspicions between Russia and both its Eastern and Western European neighbors, the US would have none of it. The US and Russia do not share European-like historical, cultural and psychological pathologies towards each other and potentially could have had very good relations. Instead, we were led to the bankrupting, empire-exhausting chimerical caprice of unipolarity, exceptionalism, and full-spectrum dominance.
Today is the result of such arrogance, vanity and folly. The “collective” West essentially caused this horrible war. The objective threat that ignited it was not Russia to Ukraine or Eastern Europe, but NATO (i.e., the US) to Russia. Lest we forget, Russia is a great power, and it should be clear to any neutral observer, it will not tolerate such an imminent threat, and further, has been the recipient of Western invasions, via the Ukrainian plains, that, in the case of the German onslaught, cost 25-30 million Russian lives, the vast majority civilian, and untold suffering and destruction. In the Russian memory and psyche, this will never be allowed to happen again.
The Russian offensive, therefore, occurred for a much more ominous reason than the Ukrainian state terrorism visited upon eastern Donbass: the US/West’s wordless wish is no less than demoralizing, weakening, bankrupting, and territorially fragmenting the Russian Federation, controlling its markets and resources, indebting its people and rendering them dependent on US-dominated financial institutions, and bringing Russia under American dependency.
A pivotal principle of American hegemony is to obstruct and destroy friendly, normal ties, much less integration, between Russia and Europe, Germany being the fulcrum.
More simply, the strategic US/CIA goal is to ensnare Russia in a protracted war, deplete it, damage it, regime-change it, install a supine leader—all as a prelude to the big fantasy: bringing down China.
The multifaceted war on Russia has been ongoing since at least the late 1990s, but really, it never stopped with the Soviet state’s disappearance. This veiled hostility and aggression certainly existed when Boris Yeltsin was in power (a good vassal according to Washington, this silly and funny man that made Bill Clinton laugh) but took off around 2005, after Washington understood that Vladimir Putin was putting Russia on an independent course, reversing the conditions overseen under the preceding, deplorable Yeltsin era, including steep economic, social, military, and developmental decline and the immiseration of the vast majority of the population, looting oligarchs, and economic “liberalization” designed in Washington.
From Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barak Obama to Donald Trump, Central and Eastern European states were gathered into the offensively retooled NATO, aggressive wars were initiated ranging from southeastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, arms control agreements were systematically dismantled, missiles deployed as far east as Romania and Poland aimed at Russia, and a client regime was installed in Ukraine.
Damn the continuous Russian protests, requests, warnings for the last twenty-five years about erosion of mutual trust. Examples of provocations in recent years: 2003 “Rose” revolution in Georgia, its military offensive in 2008. Incessant air (including B-52s) and naval incitement on Russia’s Black Sea coast in recent years, threats to Russia’s Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, in the Crimea. Unrelenting savagery against Donbass. Dismissal, scoffing at Russia’s final effort for sanity, the late 2021demands for legal indivisible security guarantees in Eastern Europe, among other aspects.
The Russian responses at each of these critical junctures were predictable and desired by the US: Georgia was beaten back; the 2014 overthrow in Ukraine led to Crimea’s accession to Russia; and the Kiev regime became ever-more aggressive, militarized, and in breach of its neutrality commitments, its leader, under American tutelage, hinting at acquiring nuclear weapons at the most recent Munich Security Conference, leading to the offensive against Ukraine.
Of course, this is not just Russia reacting; it’s also Russia playing the long game to correct, no less, than the strategic imbalance of power, the historic Western political and economic domination.
At stake here is the potential Western subjugation of the Middle East for generations and the complete extinguishing of freedom for Palestine.
What the US has done since the Cold War’s end is characterized as a foreign policy blunder, as misguided, mistaken, perhaps reckless and irresponsible, even violating the tenets of realist politics, but benign, well-intentioned. This logic is deficient, inconsistent with actual behavior. The US has deliberately, unrelentingly, knowingly pushed eastward, moving Europe with it.
Take away, renege, refuse to renew the incredibly important security infrastructure and nuclear treaties, including those that protect Europe itself (e.g., the INF), indulge in illegal wars with impunity, violate the UN Charter, international law and international humanitarian law, severely degrade diplomacy, negotiations, genuine peacemaking and render the world into a frightfully, recklessly, unstably dangerous place, is no problem when practiced by the West. Clearly, the ensuing conditions are the inevitable result of laws of the jungle foisted by those who claim to be the paragons of peace, human rights, freedom, democracy, virtue, and so on.
Russia has literally allowed itself to be cornered since 2014, though it needed time to achieve a conventional and nuclear deterrent. It’s not hard to see reality: Russia is given no quarter, no voice, its real concerns and grievances dismissed, its leader demonized, its marginalization doggedly pursued at every level of international and bilateral social and cultural interactions. No appeal to reason, to international law, to security, to evidence will do for the West, no amount of patient legal argument, explanation of Russian concerns, appeals, professional warnings, consummate diplomacy and transparency of Russian interests made an impression. Instead, the Western response was and is always to double down.
For Russia, its offensive is protecting itself against external threats, imminent within the next few years at most. What should it do? Wait until the Ukrainian regime initiated its planned offensive in the southeast (having amassed over 60,000 troops there) by the end of February? Until hypersonic Pershing II missiles are deployed literally at Russia’s western borders? Until nuclear weapons are deployed, with US help? Until Russia’s attacked? Undertake a limited operation in Donbass and simply allow pretext for NATO/Ukraine regime to deploy vast forces/lethal weaponry at the front lines?
With decades of particularly US/UK cheating, lying, prevarication and intolerable gamble.
What better argument to American/Western publics—especially a timid Germany that, because of its Nazi past, is forever insecure to demonstrate its civilized, Western cultural bona fide in relation to the Other, the European east—for standing up to “Putin’s aggression” than this?
Why this insanity? The neoliberal economic system is in deep trouble and Western power is in relative decline, hence the frenetic US-led Western activity to arrest its deterioration. It seems to me that Russia (or China for that matter) seeks a world in which a new security architecture (and global economic development and prosperity for all) is implemented in Europe and worldwide and that respects the security needs of all parties.
Finance capitalism, the system of speculative bubbles, derivatives, debt, declining standards of living, and hyperinflation, is ruining Western economies, states and societies, destroying the middle classes. The US cannot tolerate Eurasian integration and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, determined to stop any alternative development model to hyper-capitalism enriching the few, cannibalizing the many; that reduces the US to one of a handful of important multipolar players.
Washington’s grave mismanagement of international relations, its self-defeating policies, has actually weakened genuine American interests and national security and the well-being and safety of the American people, a phenomenon that cannot be naively attributed to Democrats or Republicans, this or that president. Instead, the war-state is deeply embedded in the American political economy, in factions such as the “intelligence community,” the military-industrial complex, influential establishment neo-cons, and liberal interventionists, all living in a world of yesterday.
We are rushing headlong into extremely dangerous times in which facts are a threat to the state narrative and any dissent or differing opinion is treachery. Fascism does not come from below, always from the top.