Implausible Deniability: The US Government Approach to Ukraine

by | Aug 1, 2023

Implausible Deniability: The US Government Approach to Ukraine

by | Aug 1, 2023

usa vice president joseph biden in verkhovna rada of ukraine

KIEV, UKRAINE - Dec 08, 2015: Vice president of USA Joseph Biden during his speech in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Kiev

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” said U.S. president Joe Biden of Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 26, 2022, during a speech in Warsaw, Poland.

On December 5, 2022, multiple unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs, or lethal drones) were used in Russian airspace to attack military installations near Kursk. This incursion on Russia’s territory, which reportedly killed three people, was alarming in that it represented an escalation in the conflict over eastern Ukraine which could easily spin out of control, at least judging by the annals of history. If the war raging in Ukraine spilled over the border into Russia, then it was unclear whether Putin would continue to exercise restraint, specifically, by not using all means available to him to attack the NATO bloc governments—above all, the United States—furnishing Ukraine with the ability to fight a meatgrinder war over a border dispute which would otherwise have been resolved through negotiation long ago.

If the premises of MAD (mutually assured destruction) were undermined, leading Putin to believe that he was no longer safe in his homeland, would he pull out all the stops and go ahead and use the nuclear warheads in his arsenal? The world awaited Putin’s response to the provocative use of weapons of war on his territory with nervous agitation. Fortunately, he did not initiate World War III, opting instead to denounce the use of lethal drones against Russian targets as terrorist acts. For its part, the U.S. government reiterated earlier pronouncements that they were providing weapons not for use by Ukraine on Russian soil but only for the defense of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

It is worth recalling in this context that the U.S. government infamously asserted in the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSSUSA): “We recognize that our best defense is a good offense,” effectively erasing the distinction between acts of military aggression and acts of national defense, at least in the case of itself and its allies. That the U.S. government was not aiding and abetting attacks by Ukraine in Russia would seem to be further impugned by the billions of dollars lavished upon President Zelensky, to be used as his administration sees fit. If U.S. dollars have been used to pay for Ukrainian military operations, and the December 2022 drone strikes on Russia were indeed perpetrated by Ukraine, then in what meaningful sense can it be said that the U.S. government did not enable such actions? The way to demonstrate discontent with the use of U.S. provisions would be to withdraw support, to cease pouring arms and cash into the conflict. Instead, massive amounts of military aid continue to flow to Ukraine, having long ago exceeded $100 billion.

On May 3, 2023, two drones flew to the Kremlin dome and exploded. On May 30, 2023, at least eight other drones were shot down in the skies above Moscow. Have such drones been deployed on Russian territory with the hope of assassinating Putin? The plausibility of that possibility was considerably enhanced by the fact that not only President Biden but also other politicians and pundits have ominously pronounced that “Putin must go.” The same “evil enemy” trope is recycled (mutatis mutandis) every time anyone clamors for yet more war. “Gaddafi must go!” “Saddam must go!” “Milosevic must go!” History suggests that these are not empty threats. Senator Lindsey Graham and others, including Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, have explicitly called for Putin’s assassination.

The fact that the May 3, 2023, drones which exploded during the night near the Kremlin were targeting the dome, where Putin does not reside, does not alone, as some have suggested, refute the idea that the U.S. government is scheming to “take out” the Russian president. Mistakes have often been made by the “masterminds” of U.S. foreign policy, some of the worst macro-blunders having been the U.S. missions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Further boosting the attempted assassination interpretation of the lethal drones flying above Moscow was the fact that the U.S. government (under Donald Trump) had deployed a UCAV on January 3, 2020, to assassinate General Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian located in Baghdad at the time of his death. Knowing that this mode of “targeted killing” of named officials is already regarded as one of the proverbial “options on the table” for U.S. foreign policymakers, it is far from inconceivable that the Biden administration followed Trump’s example (as in so many other cases) and attempted premeditatedly to eliminate Putin. The failure of nearly anyone in the U.S. government, on either side of the aisle, to take issue with Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani, and the strident pitch of anti-Russia rhetoric since 2016, make the attempted assassination theory all the more credible.

Adopting their customary demeanor of righteous indignation, U.S. government officials persist in denying that they have anything to do with the drone strikes on Russian soil. Some of the usual suspects in the press immediately posited that the Kremlin incidents were sneaky false flag schemes intended to tarnish the image of the United States and burnish that of Russia. Essentially the same claim (mutatis mutandis) was made subsequent to the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage on September 26, 2022, which U.S. officials and their parrots in the media all dismissed as having been perpetrated by Putin himself in order (obviously!) to garner sympathy for Russia.

In each of these cases, events presaged by U.S. officials, through plainly asserting what would or should take place—that Nord Stream would not go through if Ukraine was invaded, and that “Putin must go!”—were then, in the matter of fact, explained away. In both cases, the most obvious explanation of what took place was also the least conspiratorial. No one needed to concoct an elaborate plot involving apparently random dots in order to conclude, quite reasonably, that the United States government was behind both the Nord Stream and the Moscow drone attacks. Indeed, in any other context, a person or group expressing the desire and intention to destroy something or someone would be regarded as the primary suspect, were that very event to transpire. When a man proclaims that if his wife ever cheats on him, then he will kill her, he naturally becomes the number one suspect when she is found dead in bed along with another man. “Sheer coincidence!” the husband may protest. But until some other plausible story is produced to demonstrate that it was not and in fact could not have been him, then no one will believe a word that he says.

The sorry state of the Fourth Estate is demonstrated by a persistent willingness among journalists to promulgate, on behalf of the U.S. government, the least plausible and the most conspiratorial hypotheses of them all, the ones devised by the likely perpetrators themselves, in explaining both the Nord Stream sabotage and the serial drone strikes on Moscow. Printing and broadcasting throughout the mainstream media that “Russia did it!” over and over again (beginning, notably, with the now-debunked Russiagate conspiracy theory according to which Trump managed to be elected president only because of Vladimir Putin), has served the clear propagandistic purpose of cementing in many citizens’ minds the idea that the evil Russian enemy must be vanquished. The press coverage of these attacks, all of which are arguably acts of terrorism, has thus served to promote the U.S. policy of continuing to prolong this conflict until Ukraine finally prevails, as though the Russian government would somehow decline to use its last resort nukes, should its defeat seem otherwise imminent.

We now know that Russians did not sabotage the Nord Stream pipelines from which they stood handsomely to profit, not for the most logical reason, that it would be ludicrous for them to do so, but because the U.S. government crafted a new and more creative story, retracting its original false flag theory and replacing it with an equally implausible account according to which a few people in a yacht managed to blow up the pipelines. The CIA’s composition of this SS Minnow yarn was prompted by Seymour Hersh’s detailed and highly persuasive account of what transpired on September 26, 2022, thanks to a whistleblower who supplied a chronology and storyline explaining how exactly the Nord Stream pipelines were destroyed. Notably, it was only after Seymour Hersh furnished a precise mechanism by which the sabotage was effected by the CIA that a counternarrative suddenly emerged according to which a small group of perpetrators in a yacht in fact carried out the attack.

The first draft of the new Nord Stream story professed ignorance as to the identity of the perps—aside from denying the very possibility that the CIA may have been involved—but a bit later the story was embellished to “reveal” that the agents involved worked for Ukraine. Eventually, despite having insisted initially that Russia had blown up the pipelines, the U.S. government acknowledged, presumably to make the new story as plausible as possible, that they had known all along that it was Ukraine. In other words, all of the pumping into the mainstream media of the absurd idea that Russia had sabotaged its own interests had been brazen duplicity. But if the U.S. government itself admits that it lied at the outset, and then for months to follow, why should anyone believe them when they put forth another story instead? Or, for that matter, about anything at all?

The implausible deniability of the U.S. government’s various illegal schemes has always been a key feature of pro-war propaganda, whether in the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the generous support of the Ukrainian government or, reaching decades back, to Vietnam, the lies of which were exposed through the Pentagon Papers made public by Daniel Ellsberg (may he rest in peace). Even in 1945, with the support of nearly the entire world behind him, President Harry S. Truman told a lie (whether crafted by himself or his speechwriters) when he “apprised” the American people that Hiroshima had been a military base. Despite manifest absurdities such as the George W. Bush administration’s assertion that the 2003 invasion of Iraq could be averted only if Saddam Hussein proved that he had no WMD—such a negative existential proof being logically impossible—the press continues to play along as though the military behemoth were the beacon on the hill, the champion of democracy, and the savior of humanity.

The most recent episode of hostile drones in the skies above Moscow occurred on July 24, 2023, and once again Russian air defense systems shot them down. If the Ukrainians are “going rogue” and pushing Russia to escalate the conflict, then, again, it would seem that the appropriate response would be for the U.S. government to stop paying for such reckless initiatives. Instead, we continue to see military marketers issuing statements of the U.S. government’s steadfast resolve to stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

Essentially the same claim was made for twenty years as the country of Afghanistan was supposedly being “converted” to democracy. Instead, having sowed misery, corruption, and death throughout that land, the invaders eventually retreated in August 2021, leaving the unenlightened despots formerly in charge to govern all over again. Saddam Hussein had no WMD and was not in cahoots with Al Qaeda, both bogus pretexts of which were used to garner support for the disastrous second U.S. war on Iraq. With all of this background from the Global War on Terror in mind, there is no reason to believe any of the reports by the U.S. government on any matter of apparent war crimes or sabotage, nor its claims of adherence to anything even approximating the “laws of war.”

Disturbing though this idea may be, it is possible that lethal drones have been deployed against Russia in order to provoke Putin to use the nuclear weapons in his possession, which he has, up to now, declined to do. Of course it would on its face be insane to provoke a nuclear war, but the infusion of billions of dollars into a conflict between two parties, one of which possesses the means to total global destruction, inches the world toward just such a disaster. In other words, the Dr. Strangelove take cannot be casually dismissed as utterly preposterous. Nuclear holocaust may sound unthinkable, but it is unfortunately quite feasible. The persons who devise U.S. foreign policy and have access to secure fallout shelters are not constrained and will not be deterred by the prospect of their personal demise, so long as their own lives are not on the line.

About Laurie Calhoun

Laurie Calhoun is a Senior Fellow for The Libertarian Institute. She is the author of Questioning the COVID Company Line: Critical Thinking in Hysterical Times,We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, War and Delusion: A Critical Examination, Theodicy: A Metaphilosophical Investigation, You Can Leave, Laminated Souls, and Philosophy Unmasked: A Skeptic's Critique. In 2015, she began traveling around the world while writing. In 2020, she returned to the United States, where she remained until 2023 as a result of the COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by governments nearly everywhere.

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