The antiwar movement, the anti-imperialist movement of America, has nothing to apologize for and obediently doing so now is tantamount to facilitating our own systematic demonization, silencing, and persecution.
There were notable analysts in the independent media, antiwar orbit who called this correctly, predicting a Russian attack, leaving the door wide open to an invasion as a major possibility. Those who apparently assumed American policymakers would choose diplomacy and not ultimately risk the deaths and displacement of millions of Ukrainians and Russians, a possible global economic meltdown, catastrophic destabilization in Europe, or all out brinksmanship between the two greatest nuclear superpowers were unfortunately mistaken.
However, the U.S. antiwar scene has always opposed America’s hostile post-Soviet Union policy of coups, color revolutions, NATO’s eastward expansion menacing the Bear, ringing Russia’s borders and coasts with NATO troops, bases, missiles, tanks, bombers, and warships.
The reason for this is not simply because these policies are plainly unnecessary for American security, abhorrently costly, polluting, and aggressive. These new Cold War policies are condemned rightly because they inevitably lead to war, or more likely nuclear war.
For instance, the George W. Bush government’s decisions to tear up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and place dual use “anti-missile” launchers capable of firing hydrogen bomb-tipped Tomahawks in Poland as well as Romania were not in any way authored by non-interventionist libertarian writers and thinkers.
Similarly, it was not leftist antiwar activists, editors, and websites that provoked the Georgians to start a war with Russia and promised Kiev and Tbilisi eventual NATO membership. That was the Bush administration again.
Likewise, the Bush regime made the unprecedented choice to—in the midst of killing countless Somalis and Afghans plus more than one million Iraqis—expand the NATO Article 5 umbrella to include Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania. If we maintain our hostility with Russia, this expansion is destined to lead to World War III. For decades, old right conservatives and libertarians alike have opposed U.S. involvement in NATO and this later eastern European policy. This has nothing to do with America’s interests properly understood. There is nothing “sacred” about collectively pledging to blow up the whole world with nuclear bombs for Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, or even London.
In 2014, Barack Obama launched the Maidan coup in Ukraine. Following the “Orange Revolution,” this was the Washington regime flipping Ukraine’s government for the second time in a decade. The government installed by coup plotter Victoria Nuland, the neoconservative Project for a New American Century founder Robert Kagan’s soulmate, was infested with anti-Russian Nazis. Nuland teamed up with then Vice President Joe Biden, who helped lead the coup from the White House.
This illegal overthrow of a duly elected government led to a brutal war in eastern Ukraine which has killed more than 14,000 people. This is the war that precipitated the crisis we see today. The ethnic Russian people of the Donbas region, the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, refused to be ruled by an anti-Russian coup junta. Kiev launched a merciless so-called war on terror against them. Nazis and jihadists attacked the people of the Donbas. Putin then sent deniable, clandestine forces to support the republics’ autonomy. But he refused to recognize their independence for seven years.
Five years ago, Donald Trump began arming Ukraine with anti-tank missiles. As with Biden’s administration, the Trump regime poured weapons into Ukraine, which fell into the hands of Nazi security forces. The arms were sent to Kiev and used in the east to mass murder ethnic Russians in a violent effort to consolidate control of the divided country. Though they knew well that thousands of people were dying in numbers far higher than anything we have seen thus far during Russia’s war, Washington continued to funnel tons of weapons into the country including armed patrol boats, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and more missiles.
Trump bombed Russian mercenaries in Syria while American troops illegally occupied the eastern third of that country, itself a key Russian ally, explicitly to steal its oil resources. He also expanded NATO and continued the GOP tradition of ripping up critical arms treaties such as the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and Open Skies.
Beginning with the Obama government, CIA paramilitaries and the Pentagon’s Special Forces were deployed to train militants to carry out Kiev’s war. Concurrently, the CIA has been training these same forces at a secret base in the southern United States.
Since 2014, Washington has provided or approved upwards of six billion dollars—including $3.5 billion dollars recently pledged to replenish weapons stocks sent to Ukraine -in military aid. The U.S. continues to send stinger missiles, drones, and Javelins during the current war. This is taking place despite the risk of these weapons shipments, transiting the border with Poland for instance, being hit by Russian airstrikes. Under international law, it is argued, these would constitute legal targets during a war.
At best, this unhinged, reckless policy could lead to countless thousands of deaths in Ukraine; and at worst, perhaps a World War with nuclear weapons involved.
The American government deliberately caused and blatantly engineered this dire moment both in the long term and short term. Key decisions made—and which continue to be implemented—by Washington and its allies since the end of the last Cold War through the eventful days prior to Russia’s attack indisputably led to this current crisis.
Biden spent 2021 hosting NATO war drills throughout Eastern Europe on Russia’s doorstep including the largest such military exercises since the previous Cold War era. The Americans kept warships in the Black Sea for 182 days, a 125% increase compared with 2020. Biden’s government continued to send hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons of war to Kiev. Biden announced that he would “never recognize” Moscow’s sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula. Russia has maintained its Black Sea fleet there since before the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Less than a week after taking office, Biden chose to send guided missile destroyers to the Black Sea, these warships carry the aforementioned MK-41 missile launchers. In November, Biden simulated a nuclear first strike on Russia flying strategic bombers less than 12.5 miles off its borders.
The American people must learn to put the shoe on the other foot now and again.
Towards the end of 2021, Putin managed to have Biden agree to send American diplomats to the negotiating table to work out security guarantees and attempt to resolve long held issues. Desiring a buffer between his country and the NATO military alliance, what Putin demanded was rational and understandable. Notably, he requested, as he does today, that Kiev remain neutral, end its war on the Donbas, and not host NATO offensive strike weapons. Putin wished also that NATO rescind its invitation of membership to Ukraine and Georgia. This 2008 offer remains on the books though it is not realistic and lacks the necessary unanimous support, this “open door” has led to three wars with Russia in less than 15 years. Other proposals included that NATO no longer station military forces off Russian borders, that there be discussions on transparency, and a return to the decades long mutual ban on medium as well as short range missiles in Europe.
Talks continued for months, with perceived mix success. There were remarks all the way through from Biden himself indicating that Kiev would not join NATO in the “near term” and that offensive missiles would not be placed in Ukraine. The U.S. written response to Putin’s proposals included talk of a inspections regime for the ABM sites in Poland and Romania so Moscow could verify that there were no Tomahawks present. In exchange, the Russians would allow similar inspections on two of its own missile sites.
However, during all of this back and forth, the Russians continued to build up forces around Ukraine arguably in response to increased NATO deployments in Eastern Europe as well as multiple NATO states’ accelerated arms shipments to Kiev. Ukraine will never be in NATO but it has long been treated as a de facto member. Washington refused to guarantee that NATO would not be inducting Kiev into the alliance. This would almost certainly have averted the war.
In the days before the Russian invasion, there was an alarming uptick in ceasefire violations and explosions reported along the line of control between Kiev’s forces and the Donbas region. It remains to be seen who started this major escalation though historically the Ukrainian nationalist forces have been the clear aggressors. From 2018-2021, the UN says the vast majority, more than 80%, of that war’s civilian casualties were in the territory held by the “self-proclaimed ‘republics.” Before Putin’s war, hundreds of thousands of Russian civilians lived in the Donbas region. When Putin made the announcement that he would recognize the independence of the Donbas republics, the U.S. immediately cut off talks with Russia (in the old days, this would be a virtual declaration of war), and along with its allies unleased a trove of sanctions.
Just before Putin invaded Ukraine, Berlin cancelled the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Economic interdependence is the best deterrent for war, this is why so many jingoists call for decoupling with China and further isolation of Russia.
Shutting down the pipeline was a win for the Russia hawks who had tried to stop it for years, its mere existence would fly in the face the supposed need for American dominance in Europe and its ancillaries: NATO’s expansion, massive foreign purchases of American weapons, trillion dollar American military budgets, and myriad multinational drills preparing for war with the Russians.
This war is bylined by the hawks and U.S. government officials who did everything they could do to push Russia into a corner where they felt the need to invade Ukraine. Paris and Berlin have consistently opposed bringing Ukraine into NATO, precisely because of how provocative it would be to Moscow. This was the “brightest of all redlines” for Russia.
What is happening today was sadly predictable. After all, the concern was not that Putin might someday write strongly worded letters to Brussels and Washington. There is ample evidence, continuing to accumulate, indicating the plan all along was to lure Russia into a long term proxy war.
Now the Iron Curtain is being rebuilt, the Pentagon’s self-fulfilling prophecy of “Great Power Competition” with Russia and China has succeeded in reverting humanity back to the Cold War with the increasing possibility of nuclear weapons killing us all, and Congress just approved its “largest-ever defense spending bill.” The National Security State got what they wanted.
This does not excuse Putin for any war crimes being committed today, but the responsibility of American antiwar activists and libertarians is not to join the chorus, singing the same Orwellian songs sung by the corporate press and the blood-drenched Congress.
Contrarily, it is our duty to tell the truth and elucidate how it all came to this, to expose the American government’s crucial role in attempting to force much of the world back into hostile Cold War blocs, squandering what should have been our peace dividend on the fool’s errand of world empire.
Chiefly, we must show why détente is the correct and only answer.