By Fiona Edwards
The danger that the war in Ukraine becomes a protracted and bloody tragedy is increasing as the US and other NATO countries continue to escalate the conflict rather than push for peace. NATO leaders are prepared to risk the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainians in order to pursue Washington’s long-held geopolitical goal of weakening Russia.
It is possible to avoid such a prolonged and disastrous war.
A negotiated peace which sees Ukraine commit to a neutral status and an agreement that Kiev will respect the national rights of the Russian population in the east of Ukraine could rapidly bring an end to the conflict. This would save countless lives.
NATO expansion is the cause of the war in Ukraine
To understand the key to peace in Ukraine, it is necessary to understand the roots of the current conflict. Contrary to claims in the Western mainstream media, it is not the case that Russia’s military intervention into Ukraine on 24 February 2022 was “unprovoked.” It was in fact deliberately provoked by the US’s aggressive foreign policy, which has seen a hostile nuclear military alliance led by Washington – NATO – expand up to Russia’s border over the course of decades.
In the early 1990s the US made repeated assurances to the Soviet Union that the NATO alliance would not, in the famous words of the then US Secretary of States James Baker, expand “an inch” eastwards.
These promises were broken. Since 1990, 14 countries have joined NATO in waves of expansion that has moved NATO’s presence more than 900 kilometres closer to Russia, as part of the US’s clear project to militarily encircle and dominate the country.
The prospect of Ukraine joining NATO has been deliberately placed on the geopolitical agenda since 2008. Ukraine shares a 2,000 kilometre border with Russia and NATO membership would enable the US to station its nuclear missiles on Ukrainian territory within a few minutes of flight time of Moscow. In the face of such a threat Russia has clearly stated that Ukraine joining NATO is a red line that they would not permit the US to cross.
As mainstream US political scientist and international relations scholar John Mearsheimer explained in an interview with The New Yorker on 1 March 2022:
“I think all the trouble in this case really started in April, 2008, at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, where afterward NATO issued a statement that said Ukraine and Georgia would become part of NATO. The Russians made it unequivocally clear at the time that they viewed this as an existential threat, and they drew a line in the sand.” But despite this knowledge the US deliberately pressed on with NATO expansion.
This was despite the fact that the US had made clear that it would never accept missiles being within a few minutes flying time of the US, as this would create the potential for a nuclear first strike against the US. The US was prepared to undertake world nuclear war to prevent this in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
The US-backed coup of 2014 and the start of a proxy war
Washington’s agenda to expand NATO into Ukraine was intensified in 2014 when the US orchestrated a far right coup that removed the democratically elected President of Ukraine. This US intervention brought an end to Ukrainian neutrality and installed a pro-US regime in Kiev that made joining NATO a key priority.
The coup triggered a civil war in Ukraine. With military aid and support from the US and other NATO countries, the Kiev regime orchestrated assaults on Russian population of the Donbass which according to the United Nations has resulted in the deaths of 14,000 people and over 50,000 casualties in eight years from 2014 to early 2022.
These military attacks and other measures which have threatened the ethnically and Russian speaking minority within Ukraine, including the suppression of their language rights and the glorification of Nazis such as Stepan Bandera, have shattered the conditions for the Ukrainian bi-national state that existed prior to 2014.
As John Bellamy Foster points out in his recent article in Monthly Review, in the lead up to Russia’s military intervention in February 2022 the US-backed government in Kiev was “preparing a major offensive, with 130,000 troops on the borders of Donbass in the East and South… firing into Donbass, with continuing US/NATO support.”
The route to a lasting peace in Ukraine therefore requires a negotiated settlement that addresses both the issue of restoring the national rights of the Russian population in the east of Ukraine in addition to re-establishing Ukrainian neutrality.
A neutral Ukraine would remove the threat to Russia of a nuclear military alliance on its borders.
Ukrainian President Zelensky during the first weeks of the war seemed to recognise this, indicating during recent peace talks that Ukraine would not join NATO, while Ukrainian officials briefed that neutrality with security guarantees was an option.
Peace talks that guarantee Ukrainian neutrality is the route to ending the conflict in Ukraine, not further military escalations which can only raise the stakes higher and prolong the atrocities of war. Indeed, a guarantee of a neutral Ukraine and the ceasing of NATO’s eastward expansion could have prevented the current war in Ukraine, and the horrific tragedy facing the Ukrainian people, from taking place at all.
Washington wants a prolonged war to weaken Russia
Unfortunately, the US appears intent on preventing any negotiated deal and is instead intervening to ratchet up the war.
Retired senior US diplomat Chas Freeman has been making the case that the Biden administration is engaged in a “proxy war” against Russia, arguing that the US is willing to “fight to the last Ukrainian.”
According to Freeman:
“Everything we are doing, rather than accelerate an end to the fighting and some compromise, seems to be aimed at prolonging the fighting.”
“For some in NATO, it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.”
The latest actions of the US and NATO have been to ratchet up tensions with Moscow by providing billions of dollars in weapons and military assistance to Kiev, clearly demonstrating that the West is intent on prolonging the war in Ukraine.
Since February the US administration has provided $2.4bn in military aid to Ukraine including artillery systems, artillery rounds, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters.
Other NATO countries are following the US’s lead in stepping up the flow of military aid into Ukraine.
Britain, as a leading member of NATO and junior partner to the US, is eagerly participating in Washington’s proxy war.
On the 8 April Britain announced it was providing Ukraine with a £100 million package of military aid, building on the £350 million of military aid Britain has already provided.
Since 2015 Britain has trained 22,000 members of the Ukrainian armed forces as part of ‘Operation Orbital’. A report in The Times on 15 April 2022 confirmed that British Special Forces are currently on the ground “training local troops.”
By sending arms NATO leaders are not “Standing with Ukraine” but rather escalating the conflict and using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder to advance the US’s geopolitical interests.
Peace now: how to end the war in Ukraine
It is the duty of the anti-war movement to oppose NATO’s dangerous escalation, support negotiations and make the case for a lasting peace.
With NATO’s direct involvement in the war in Ukraine increasing, the danger that this conflict spirals from a proxy war to a direct confrontation between nuclear armed states is growing.
With so much at stake the anti-war movement must base its calls for peace on political solutions that can actually end the war. Russia is not going to accept a hostile nuclear alliance on its border any more than the US was during the Cuban missile crisis. The people in the east of Ukraine cannot live under siege with their rights trampled upon by the Kiev government.
The war in Ukraine could be ended very rapidly through negotiations that agree to Ukraine adopting a neutral status and a settlement that guarantees the national rights of the Russian population in the east of Ukraine.
The above article was originally published here on NewColdWar.