On December 21, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spoke to Congress in an effort to get more financial and military support from the American government. Zelenskyy spoke of peace, freedom, and interconnection as the main goals of the Ukrainian fight but that Ukraine needed American resolve. Zelenskyy stated:
From the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America and from Africa to Australia, the world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and at the same time to feel safe when such a battle continues. Our two nations are allies in this battle, and next year will be a turning point . . . when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom.
After his speech, Congress passed a $1.7 trillion spending plan with $45 billion going to Ukraine. This money is supposed to be used for the Ukrainian war effort, but President Biden insists that he has no intention of sending US combat troops to Ukraine; he was not the first leader to make such a promise.
Parallels in History
Just as in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam, it is never just military support. President Wilson, President Roosevelt, and President Johnson all promised that they would not send Americans into a war. President Wilson created a campaign slogan of “he kept us out of war.” FDR created the lend-lease program to arm the British and later the Soviets, all the while keeping “neutrality.” Presidents Kennedy and Johnson sent military aid and advisors to support the South Vietnamese government until the United States sent combat troops after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Despite the promises of these politicians, war was the result.
Although we don’t know the plans of Western government officials, we can analyze their previous plans and policies: broken promises, broken treaties, sanctions, and coups that built up the mistrust between East and West and caused the harmful consequences we see today.
Western Expansion in the East
On February 24, 2022, just hours after the initial invasion, President Putin went on TV and gave his reasons for the invasion, stating:
I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border. It is a fact that over the past thirty years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries . . . In response . . . we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail.
NATO expansion has always been a concern for the Russian Federation since its start in 1991, when American, British, French, and German diplomats promised not to expand NATO. But this was a broken promise, as Alan Sabrosky, former head of strategic studies for the US Army War College, put it:
Well, it was the sort of thing where we could do it. There was a drunken lout named Yeltsin as president of Russia, and there was very little we couldn’t do. We plundered Russia economically and plundered it politically. Yeltsin was completely incapable of responding in an effective way to any expansion of NATO beyond its borders. We could do it, and so we did.
Bill Clinton would bring countries such as Poland and Hungary into NATO, breaking earlier promises, but would deny a Russian request for NATO membership in 2000. President George W. Bush extended membership to the Baltic countries and Slovakia in 2004, and he worked toward adding Georgia and Ukraine into the fold in 2008. But this was not the start of the war in Ukraine; that war would begin in 2014 with the NATO-backed overthrow of the Ukrainian government.
Known as the Maidan Revolution, this NATO-backed coup overthrew the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. We know this was backed by NATO because of a recorded phone call from the Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet to the EU head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton. In the call, Minister Paet talks of suspicious members of the new government coalition ordering the sniper murders in Independence Square that killed protesters and police alike. In fact, Maidan activist Ivan Bubenchik confessed that during the massacre, he had shot Ukrainian police officers. After this coup, Russia annexed Crimea, and secessionist rebels seized Donbass from Ukraine, which sparked a civil war that rages on to this day.
These suspicious members were from neo-Nazi parties like Azov and Svoboda, the same groups that led violent clashes with the police. In a phone call whose transcript was leaked in 2014, assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussed whom they favored in the new opposition government and agreed that Vice President Biden should give them an “atta-boy.” The transcript states:
Pyatt: So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep . . . we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we will probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.
Nuland: So, on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president’s national security adviser Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need [US vice president Joe] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick. So, Biden’s willing.
In the call, Nuland and Pyatt also talked about working with Oleh Tyahnybok and his neo-Nazi Svoboda party; members of this party as well as members of the Azov Battalion once again spearheaded the attacks on police. In the call, Nuland said that Tyahnybok would “be a problem” but that members of the Svoboda party like Oleksandr Sych would get positions in the new government’s cabinet.
One of the best analogies that came out of this war was from Scott Horton from antiwar.com: if the Russian government overthrew the Canadian government and the now anti-American government threatened to kick US naval bases out of Alaska and started a war with secessionists in Vancouver, British Columbia, we would be plotting regime change within hours.
This war is a direct result of war hawk American policy, which installed an anti-Russian government in Ukraine; expanded a military alliance on Russia’s doorstep; gave billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to fight Russian-backed secessionists in Donbass, ending missile treaties and installing silos in Poland and Romania; and waged an economic war on the Russian population through sanctions. We now see the consequences of the US government’s actions.