Aaron Maté Foreign Policy Ukraine

Siding With Ukraine’s Far-Right, US Sabotaged Zelensky’s Peace Mandate

In 2019, Zelensky was elected on an overwhelming mandate to make peace with Russia. As Stephen F. Cohen warned that year, the US chose to side with Ukraine’s far-right and fuel war.
Zelensky in his May 2019 inaugural address. (President.gov.ua)

By Aaron Maté / Substack

On a warm October day in 2019, the eminent Russia studies professor Stephen F. Cohen and I sat down in Manhattan for what would be our last in-person interview (Cohen passed away in September 2020 at the age of 81).

The House was gearing up to impeach Donald Trump for freezing weapons shipments to Ukraine while pressuring its government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The Beltway media was consumed with frenzy of a presidency in peril. But Professor Cohen, one of the leading Russia scholars in the United States, was concerned with what the impeachment spectacle in Washington meant for the long-running war between the US-backed Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels in the Donbas.

At that point, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky was just months into an upstart presidency that he had won on a pledge to end the Donbas conflict. Instead of supporting the Ukrainian leader’s peace mandate, Democrats in Congress were impeaching Trump for briefly impeding the flow of weapons that fueled the fight. As his Democratic allies now like to forget, President Obama refused to send these same weapons out of fear of prolonging the war and arming Nazis. By abandoning Obama’s policy, the Democrats, Cohen warned, threaten to sabotage peace and strengthen Ukraine’s far-right.

“Zelensky ran as a peace candidate,” Cohen explained. “He won an enormous mandate to make peace. So, that means he has to negotiate with Vladimir Putin.” But there was a major obstacle. Ukrainian fascists “have said that they will remove and kill Zelensky if he continues along this line of negotiating with Putin… His life is being threatened literally by a quasi-fascist movement in Ukraine.”

Peace could only come, Cohen stressed, on one condition. “[Zelensky] can’t go forward with full peace negotiations with Russia, with Putin, unless America has his back,” he said. “Maybe that won’t be enough, but unless the White House encourages this diplomacy, Zelensky has no chance of negotiating an end to the war. So the stakes are enormously high.”

The subsequent impeachment trial, and bipartisan US policy since, has made clear that Washington has had no interest in having Zelensky’s back, and every interest in fueling the Donbas war that he had been elected to end. The overwhelming message from Congress, fervently amplified across the US media (including progressive outlets) with next to no dissent, was that when it comes to Ukraine’s civil war, the US saw Ukraine’s far-right as allies, and its civilians as cannon fodder.

The Ukrainian battle against Russian-backed rebels, State Department official and opening impeachment witness George Kent testified, was being waged by the “Ukrainian equivalent of our own Minutemen of 1776.” In his opening statement at Trump’s trial, Democratic impeachment manager Adam Schiff approvingly quoted another Kent line: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people, so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

Although Trump’s impeachment failed to remove him from office, it succeeded in cementing the proxy war aims of its chief proponents: rather than support Zelensky’s peace mandate, Ukraine would instead be used to “fight Russia over there.”

In using Ukraine to bleed Russia, the US has showcased its contempt for everything in Ukraine that it claims to defend, namely its democracy and security. By treating Ukraine as a depot for US weapons, the US has joined Ukrainian fascists in sabotaging the 2015 Minsk accords that could have put an end to the civil war triggered by a US-backed coup the year prior. Minsk called for granting Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population in the eastern Donbas limited autonomy and respect for their language. This prospect was a non-starter for the far-right nationalists and Nazis empowered by the 2014 US-backed Maidan coup.

“The uncomfortable truth is that a sizeable portion of Kiev’s current government — and the protesters who brought it to power — are, indeed, fascists,” two specialists with prominent Western think tanks wrote in Foreign Policy in March 2014, one month after the coup.

The fascists have blocked peace in the Donbas at every turn. When the Ukrainian government voted on a “special law” advancing the Minsk accords in August 2015, the Svoboda party and other far-right groups led violent clashes that killed three Ukrainian soldiers and left dozens wounded. Then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who had signed Minsk at a time when President Obama was resisting heavy bipartisan pressure to arm Ukraine, got the message and refused to uphold Ukraine’s end of the bargain.

In April 2019, Zelensky was elected with an overwhelming 73% of the vote on a promise to turn the tide. In his inaugural address the next month, Zelensky declared that he was “not afraid to lose my own popularity, my ratings,” and was “prepared to give up my own position – as long as peace arrives.”

But Ukraine’s powerful far-right and neo-Nazi militias made clear to Zelensky that reaching peace in the Donbas would have a much higher cost.

“No, he would lose his life,” Right Sector co-founder Dmytro Anatoliyovych Yarosh, then the commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, responded one week after Zelensky’s inaugural speech. “He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk – if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the Revolution and the War.”

Along with the threats to his life, Zelensky experienced direct obstacles to his peace mandate on multiple fronts.

When Zelensky travelled to the Donbas in October 2019 to promote elections for the rebel-held areas, he was confronted by angry members of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion rallying under the slogan of “No to Capitulation.” In one exchange caught on video, Zelensky sparred with an Azov member over the president’s calls for a military drawdown. “I’m the president of this country. I’m 41 years old. I’m not a loser. I came to you and told you: remove the weapons,” Zelensky pleaded.

But Zelensky met continued defiance. The same far-right forces set up an armed checkpoint to delay a Ukrainian military pullback. Thousands of far-right and nationalist protesters, cheered by the liberal intelligentsia and carrying flares as torches, also marched in Kiev.

When Zelensky’s press secretary, Iuliia Mendel, “drew attention to the prevalence of civilian casualties” in the Donbas, “which she blamed on government forces’ injudicious use of return fire,” she was greeted instead with “a prosecutorial summons,” Katharine Quinn-Judge of the International Crisis Group reported in April 2020, one year after Zelensky’s election. Mendel’s recognition of the suffering in the Donbas, Quinn-Judge observed, resulted from “Zelensky’s campaign pledge to treat residents of Russia-backed enclaves more like full-fledged Ukrainians,” – a non-starter for the US-favored far-right nationalists, who harbored no such interest in Ukrainians’ equality.

Although Zelensky dithered on Minsk, he nonetheless continued talks on its implementation. The far-right continued to express its violent opposition at every turn, such as in August 2021, when at least eight police officers were wounded in armed protests outside the presidential offices.

The far-right threats to Zelensky undoubtedly thwarted a peace agreement that could have prevented the Russian invasion. Just two weeks before Russia troops entered Ukraine, the New York Times noted that Zelensky “would be taking extreme political risks even to entertain a peace deal” with Russia, as his government “could be rocked and possibly overthrown” by far-right groups if he “agrees to a peace deal that in their minds gives too much to Moscow.”

Yuri Hudymenko, leader of the far-right Democratic Ax, even threatened Zelensky with an outright coup: “If anybody from the Ukrainian government tries to sign such a document, a million people will take to the streets and that government will cease being the government.”

Zelensky has clearly gotten the message. Instead of pursuing the peace platform that he was elected on, the Ukrainian President has instead made alliances with the Ukrainian far-right that violently opposed it. As recently as late January, amid last-chance talks to salvage the Minsk accords, Zelensky-appointed Ukrainian security chief Oleksiy Danilov instead pronounced that “the fulfillment of the Minsk agreement means the country’s destruction.” At the final round of Minsk talks in February, just two weeks before Russia’s invasion, a “key obstacle,” the Washington Post reported, “was Kyiv’s opposition to negotiating with the pro-Russian separatists.”

Zelensky’s acquiescence to Nazi forces was most recently underscored on April 7th, when an address to the Greek parliament was overshadowed by his airing of a video featuring a member of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion.

“I think Zelensky found out very quickly that because of the Ukrainian right, it was impossible to implement Minsk II,” John Mearsheimer, the University of Chicago professor who has warned for years that US policies were pushing Ukraine into a conflict with Russia, said in a public event the same day. “…Zelensky understands that he cannot take the Ukrainian right on by himself. So basically we have a situation where Zelensky is stymied.”

Echoing his late friend and colleague Stephen F. Cohen, Mearsheimer stressed the centrality of the US role.

“The Americans will side with the Ukrainian right,” Mearsheimer said. “Because the Americans, and the Ukrainian right, both do not want Zelensky cutting a deal with the Russians that makes it look like the Russians won. So this is the principal reason I’m very pessimistic about Ukraine’s ability to help shut this one down.”

While claiming to profess concern for Ukrainian lives, NATO policymakers have made plain their disregard for diplomacy. Instead, as retired senior US diplomat Chas Freeman recently told me, they have pursued a policy of fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian.”

“Everything we are doing, rather than accelerate an end to the fighting and some compromise, seems to be aimed at prolonging the fighting,” Freeman, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, among a number of other senior positions, said.

Invoking Freeman’s warning, Noam Chomsky concurs that US policy amounts to a “death warrant” for Ukraine.

Indeed, on April 5, the Washington Post made clear the prevailing viewpoint in Washignton and Brussels: “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.” While rhetorically claiming to support Ukrainian agency, in reality, the Post added, “there are limits to how many compromises some in NATO will support to win the peace.” This is undoubtedly the message being relayed to Zelensky from the White House in what National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described as “near-daily contact” with Zelensky’s team about the negotiations with Russia.

In sabotaging Zelensky’s peace mandate to side with the Ukrainian far-right, the US pushed Ukraine into a calamity that Professor Cohen warned about nearly three years ago.

“There were moments in history, political history, when there’s an opportunity that is so good and wise and so often lost, the chance,” Cohen told me in October 2019. “So, the chance for Zelensky, the new president who had this very large victory, 70 plus percent to negotiate with Russia an end to that war, it’s got to be seized. And it requires the United States, basically, simply saying to Zelensky, ‘Go for it, we’ve got your back.’”

By choosing to ignore the pleas of lonely voices like Cohen to instead have the back of Ukraine’s far-right, Washington sabotaged a historic peace mandate and helped provoke a catastrophic war.

Aaron Maté

Aaron Maté is a journalist with The Grayzone, where he hosts “Pushback.” He is also a contributor to Real Clear Investigations and the temporary co-host of “Useful Idiots.” In 2019, Maté won the Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media for Russiagate coverage in The Nation.

52 comments

  1. Yes, there are Nazis in the Ukraine, but there are plenty of democratically minded people. Would the author want us to justify the Russian invasion and allow them to swallow up the country? C’mon, anger at the bad guys in America cannot obscure the fact that Putin is a very dangerous person who has a long and murderous history.

    1. C’mon Heb, how do you know Russia wants to swallow Ukraine. Are you on the Russian planning staff? I’ve heard this before–Mr. Putin is evil, Mr. Putin is dangerous. Not a soul has has ever given an example of this evilness or dangerousness I get it–he drives a Harley, probably has a motorcycle gang.

      1. C’mon Robert, ye can’t possibly be that simple-minded that ye have not heard of all the ways in which Putin has stated that the Ukraine isn’t a real country and actually belongs to Russia? do yer research!

      2. Herb: What Robert said! Russia is going to do, just like the United States would do, what it takes to secure their national sovereignty. And if a collocation of nations had surrounded the US as NATO has been surrounding Russia (in violation of a signed treaty) ever since the USSR collapsed, well, there’d be hell to pay as the US military might would once again spring into action.

      3. Usa interest with smart ass Joe Biden in the lead is to fight Russia to the last Ukrainians, who is Zelensky with his arm twisted on the back of US politics, where Putin, there is also no innocence is set to be the big villain.

        And news papers like Washington Post follows up with massive amounts of self-overestimating cultural dick pic to Ukraine.

        A habit they may have from their feudal capitalist owner Jeff Bez, who loves to oppress labor unions while at the same time adorning himself with the Washington Post as a democratic, open-minded and tolerant man.

        It is his cultural dick pic to the world and an echo of the United States.

      4. @Per Eskildsen
        Actually, it’s the exact opposite. In a video-recorded meeting with other Russian leaders shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin asked what to do about countries around Russia that seemed to be threatening Russia (by joining NATO or for some other reason, I don’t remember). The other Russian leader suggested annexation of those countries, and Putin belittled him and said that annexation was not on the table.

        All this crap about Russia wanting to take over Ukraine is U.S. propaganda. Putin has said publicly and quite clearly what Russia wants, and it doesn’t even approach taking over Ukraine.

        To be clear, none of this is to say that Putin is a good guy or that Russia is a good country. All large countries — the U.S., Russia, China, Australia, Canada, and India — are evil in their own ways (though India is substantially different in some ways), and all leaders of these countries are bad people, at least politically. It’s just that Putin is nowhere near as bad as he’s made out to be in the U.S., nor is he anywhere near as bad as any U.S. president, measured by death count alone.

    2. Putin is a rational moderate compared the the greedy, arrogant and immeasurably incompetent madmen and psychopaths that rule the west and who have from the start provoked this crisis. He did what he felt he had to do, with obvious reluctance after numerous efforts to find some reasonable accommodation with the west which ignored him and stunted his efforts at every turn.

      The truth is ugly Herb….it’s also impossible to find in any traditional informational media. Because in the Empire of Lies, the truth is treason.

      1. @JustAMaverick
        Your rational moderate does not think that Ukraine is a nation and has the right to exist as an independent state . This is pure Putin, no something that the West dictated.
        What was the clear and present danger from the West to Russia that absolutely required that on February 24 Russia invade Ukraine?

      2. the truth, indeed, is ugly and it is Russia killing thousands of civilians when no Ukrainian attacked Russia… ye can’t possibly be that simple-minded that ye have not heard of all the ways in which Putin has stated that the Ukraine isn’t a real country and actually belongs to Russia? the empire of lies begins with you….

    3. You understand nothing. Did you even read the article? Do you even know who any of the historians or diplomats mentioned are? Putin has a long and murderous history? You’ve apparently missed the last 75 years of US war-making and relentless destruction of governments, societies, and countries all over the world. It’s a little late in the day for these childish and naive blatherings which amount to the regurgitation of neocon talking points.

    4. There are Nazis in many countries. The difference is that the Nazis in Ukraine operate independent paramilitaries *with government support* and also have a voice in policy.

      It’s as if the United States were to allow the KKK official influence in the Department of Education and the Department of Defense were to officially supply and work with the Michigan Militia do do their dirty work.

      1. @Feral Finster
        According to Scott Ritter, it’s worse than that. The Nazis in Ukraine threaten politicians’ lives and actually carry out those threat, so the politicians are scared of them and do a lot of what they want. Not to mention an entire Nazi battalion, and Nazis in high positions in the military and government, like the head of the National Police.

  2. Regime change seems to make sense of the past year but I’m still wondering why? Why get rid of Putin at such great expense? Who will take his place?🤔

      1. @Feral Finster
        Those countries don’t have nuclear weapons. Pretty big difference.

  3. Zelenskyy. Though elected with an extraordinary 73% of the vote, by June 2021 over half of the electorate didn’t want him to run again, and only 21% said they would vote for him.

    I quote a long passage from Richard Seymour:

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky, ubiquitously declared a ‘hero’ on the front pages as he channels the Churchill myth. Caitlin Moran of The Times confesses a ‘crush’ on Zelensky. The New York Post reports that women on TikTok are going ‘wild’ for the Ukrainian premiere. In the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker eulogises him as a modern ‘warrior-artist’.

    There has been scarcely any realistic reflection on Zelensky’s record as a leader. One of the puzzles about Ukraine’s president is the counterintuitive relationship between his funding source and his election promises. His major donor was the brutal oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky who owns the 1+1 Media Group that broadcast Zelensky’s popular comedy vehicle, Servant of the People. Kolomoisky was an active proponent of war with Russia in Donbass who bankrolled the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion and other militias responsible for war crimes. Yet Zelensky was elected on a platform of opposing oligarch corruption, ending the war in Donbass and making peace with Russia.

    Since 2019, the president has made little progress on this agenda. Although he talked up his commitment to de-oligarchization, in practice this has meant pursuing those with alleged connections to Russia: sanctioning opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk – accused of having financial ties to Donbass separatists – and abruptly shutting down three TV stations for broadcasting Russian ‘misinformation’. Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, had his assets seized on as yet unevidenced claims that he funded separatist rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk; and last weekend Zelensky banned 11 Russia-aligned political parties.

    Indeed, anti-corruption activities appear to have been assiduously recast as an effort to root out Russian influence, consolidating Zelensky’s grip on power while protecting Kolomoisky. In early 2020, the president sacked prosecutor-general Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who had launched an anti-corruption drive whose targets included Kolomoisky. She was replaced by a former Zelensky adviser. Zelensky also appointed his old school friend, Ivan Bakanov, to head the Security Service of Ukraine; hired Kolomoisky’s lawyer as his administration’s chief of staff; and embarked on a sweeping reform of the security services which Human Rights Watch condemned as a power-grab. Zelensky has also beefed up his alliances within the state by appointing dozens of former colleagues from his TV production company to prominent positions.

    What became of peace with Russia? The basis for this would have been Minsk II, signed in February 2015 after the collapse of the initial Minsk Protocol. The accords reflected the armed leverage that separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk achieved with Russian military backing. As a result, Ukrainian governments have always resented their terms while claiming to respect them. Whereas Russia insisted on upholding Minsk II’s commitment to ‘local self-governance’ and elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, Ukraine sought to delay the implementation of such provisions, at least until the withdrawal of Russian forces. To negotiate a peace with his larger neighbour, Zelensky would have needed to accommodate the latter’s priorities, which would have been extremely difficult given the disposition of Ukraine’s parliament. (He faced fierce criticism for simply agreeing to negotiate with Russia while its forces continued to occupy Crimea.) Thus, caving to both domestic and international pressure, Zelensky stuck to Ukraine’s traditional position – refusing to negotiate with Donbass leaders, rejecting federalization and opposing the Russian occupation of Crimea. Not only that; he also increased military cooperation with the US and UK, building new naval bases near the Black Sea which Russia viewed as hostile Western outposts.

    In all likelihood, neither Russia nor Ukraine wanted to fully implement Minsk II. Russia could temporise over withdrawing its forces while increasing its influence in Donetsk and Luhansk, converting them into ever more surreally authoritarian enclaves. Ukraine was reluctant to pass the political provisions for as long as Russian military and political power in the region would turn ‘local self-governance’ into de facto autonomy. More fundamentally, as Volodymyr Ishchenko has argued, the Minsk dilemma reflected the broader failure of nationalist projects in post-Soviet Ukraine. In part because of the fragmentation of the capitalist class, no single project has been able to secure the assent of more than half the population. The liberal-nationalist wing that took power after Maidan, with the involvement of a small but influential far-right, was never accepted by the majority in Donetsk and Luhansk, historically the most prosperous, industrially-advanced and pro-Russian areas. While Russia’s actions since 2014 have drained support for it within Ukraine, and the invasion has likely destroyed it for good, this doesn’t mean that Zelensky ever had a chance of mediating the contradictions even if he wanted to. This failure caused his popularity to tank. Though elected with an extraordinary 73% of the vote, by June 2021 over half of the electorate didn’t want him to run again, and only 21% said they would vote for him.

    1. Ukraine did not like the Minsk accords from the beginning because implementing them as written will have had given the separatists a veto power to stop Ukraine moving toward admission in the EU, which has been Russia intention from the beginning.
      Ukraine would have been disunited, fragmented and neutered, just the kind of neighbor Putin likes.

  4. Give me a break. Who attacked whom? You seem to be ignoring this fundamental fact. And Zelensky has been calling for negotiation and has agreed to Ukraine remaining neutral. That’s the point. Russia will not agree to this; they want to take control of Ukraine. I guess you want to side with Putin, then.

    1. Tom Calarco.
      “Who attacked whom?” The US promised NATO wouldn’t expand east past Germany and then did it many times until NATO now surrounds Russia leaving only Ukraine as a security boundary. {Now, crazy as it sounds, Sweden and Finland are thinking of joining NATO, an extremely aggressive obsolete organization kept in play by the Pentagon/MIC. Big bucks in war, America’s main business]. Zelenskyy will “hang from a tree” if he negotiates with Russia. Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe and is run by Nazis/Fazcists. You surely know that by now. Azov Battalion, the Right Sector, Svoboda, Stefan Banderaites. Zelenskyy’s also corrupt as is his sponsor Igor Kolomoisky; both have $millions off shore. Putin wanted to “denazify” just as he said and protect the Russian-speakers in the Donbas, 14,000 of whom have been murdered in the last 8 years with the approval of the US who ousted Yanukovich in another of their illegal coups. The end goal for the US is all this mess is a regime change in Russia. They’ve pressured Putin with steadily surrounding his country with NATO until the final red line was reached. Putin had to say, no, no more. He does not want to control or occupy Ukraine. He wants, simply, for it to remain neutral. The US, however, wants another war, this time one than may end in the destruction of us all. Yes, I side with Putin, the only sane person in this mess. BTW, the US (Obama) actually thought he could take Crimea’s Sevastopol as a US base. Russia doesn’t “occupy” Crimea; it has had it Navy there since 1783. In other words, in 2014 thousands of Russian seamen were ALREADY there.
      For god’s sake, read a Stephen F. Cohen book sometime.

      1. oh, Rob! sure there were VERBAL promises to not extend NATO but then things changed. Russia [under Putin] changed. but that these guarantees were never even requested and put down IN WRITING speaks for itself, now on to the NATO ‘encirclement’ of Russia: Russia’s combined land and sea borders are 35.000 miles. less than half of this -12500 miles- are land borders, of which a whopping 6 [!!!] percent [yes, SIX percent] [750 miles] are borders with NATO members.
        see, ye read something and have an ‘opinion’ but the facts do not at all show Russia being ‘surrounded’ by NATO. do ye ever do research?

      2. My last reply to someone who can’t spell ‘you” or “your.”
        Verbal not good enough for you? Promises don’t have to be kept if not written down? I’ve been dealing with the Japanese for many, many years. All our contracts are verbal and have never yet been broken. One is only as good as his word.
        6% … that’s your argument?
        You won’t answer this: What would the US do if the borders of Canada and Mexico and Cuba (and all three hated us) were dotted with nuclear weapons pointed at this country? Would that be allowed? Also, what country ousts leaders in and attacks sovereign countries the most. It’s certainly not Russia or China.

      3. @Rob Roy
        The Natives here have told me that white men have to put everything in writing because they can’t be trusted. Sounds like arvo is a perfect example of that!

    2. Tom before you get so indignant I suggest you actually learn the history that led to this manufactured crisis. Washington and the EU have instigated and provoked this crisis from the start. Russia was forced into this conflict against their will after every effort they made to avoid it was ignored…intentionally ignored.

      Tom, we are the bad guys here.

    3. Tom, the majority of folks who post here have forgotten who attacked whom and blame the victim, just like israel does with the palestinians… or they construct some lame-ass excuse of how poor putin just HAD to go to war, back against the wall, cause the threat of Ukraine becoming a nato member in 15 or 20 years was this existential threat which necessitated immediate mass murder….
      funny, when bush attacked iraq, nobody blamed iraq for the war as if one could not make the case that Hussein’provoked’ the usa… don’t get me wrong, i am ALWAYS against the aggressor, israel, usa, nato, putin… when ye crossw borders and start killing that’s it. ye are the problem.
      but for most here, it’s ‘wishy-washy’ “sure, i am against war, but putin had no choice, the west made him do it, nazinazinazi, blah-blah-blah…. and secretly they can’t wait for Putin to win…

    4. Wait, Zelenskii was trying to implement Minsk-2 all this time?

      Otherwise, your argument “you side with Putin!” is in line with several of the Ten Commandments of War Propaganda, as articulated by Lord Ponsonby.

  5. A fine piece of journalism from Aaron Mate. Sheds clearer light on the history of Ukraine situation with this account of his interview with Russia studies professor Stephen F. Cohen, in October 2019.

  6. If there are Nazis with influence in Ukraine, if Ukraine survives this war it will need to keep them from having any influence on the government and fight them to the degree it can. This does not in any way justify Russia’s claim that it invaded to get rid of Nazis. Regardless of what happened in the past, Russia is today the invader and killer of civilians and Russia has truly shown the world what it really is: an imperialist power willing to take over an independent country by force (not saying Russia is alone in this). This greatly dimimishes Russia’s stature in the world. Bad mistake, Putin. And the Russian people now suffer the supply problems of sanctions which they did not have before. What country disregards the needs of its people? (OK, you can say all of them.) There is a spectrum of history that one can analyze, but it is imperative we look at what is happening in the present. Support Ukraine, support an end to this war, and then you can talk about what caused it and the effects of American imperialism and any remaining right-wing groups. To take Russia’s side now is the authoritarian position, comparable to the fascism of the Nazis. Be on the correct side.

    1. Micheal I find your argument….quite twisted.

      “Support Ukraine, support an end to this war, and then you can talk about what caused it….”

      How can you end a war if you can’t talk about what caused it Micheal?
      How can you have peace, if you don’t understand who provoked the war Micheal?
      How can you want peace by supporting Ukraine to commit suicide in a war they cannot win Michael?

      Also Michael if you look at the economic ramifications of our sanctions against Russia you will see it is being far far more damaging to ourselves, then it is to them.

      Really Michael you need to get up to speed on this.

      1. I agree with you, JustA Maverick, and disagree with Michael. To side with Ukraine is to side with total corruption. Russia was goaded and provoked for at least a couple decades by the US to come to the point of war. If the US is not at war EVERY minute, it gets depressed. If one looks past the US/UK propaganda blanket, one can side with Russia easily. Being hookwinked by, say, the NYT is lying to oneself. Notice the US in immediate petty fits screams, “sanctions!” That’ll teach ’em!

      2. Michael,
        “influence on the government”? The Nazi/Fascists already OWN the entire government. There no democracy there now of any kind whatsoever. You seem to think there are people in Ukraine who want democracy and can somehow get it. Not going to happen, least not until hell freezes over.

      3. My most sincere apology for mis-attributing Steiner’s quote to you. In actually we are mostly in agreement.

  7. Firstly, history proves unequivocally Capitalism will always morph into Nazism (or Nazisms’ slave-plantation equivalent) whenever it has the chance; such is the Adolf-Eichmann-caliber moral imbecility of all those who live by greed.

    Secondly, with the irremediable Nazification of SCOTUS — and the lifetime appointments that are making its zero-tolerance Nazification of the USian Empire not only inescapable but secret-police permanent and high-tech omnipotent — the owners of the United States have finally achieved what has been their primary secret goal since the government’s otherwise-inexplicable refusal to prosecute the Nazi Bankers’ Plot of 1933.

    With our Masters since granted real-world omnipotence by the infinitely evil but unprecedentedly skilled legions of Nazi war criminals the Capitalist cabal and its wholly owned government embraced after 1945, the USian Empire is now in every way imaginable the (unquestionably Hitler-appointed) successor to the Third Reich.

    Thus the U.S. functions as the post-1945 Nazi International, unequivocally proven as such by its unabashed support for Nazis everywhere in the world.

    Thirdly, an aside to JustAMaverick: obviously your knowledge of history is less fulsome than you imagine; you write, “Yes, there are Nazis in the Ukraine, but there are plenty of democratically minded people.” Historically speaking, “democratically minded people” have proven themselves pathetically irrelevant in such circumstances, congenitally helpless in the face of the Nazi threat.

    In fact, the only historically effective antidote to Nazis and Nazism was the Red Army and its GRU, their always-terminal military solution one in which the variously named KGB was scarcely a factor. Apart from circumstances so confronted, no Nazi takeover of a Capitalist country has ever been permanently defeated. This was true even of the Soviet Union, which best evidence indicates was destroyed by Nazi operatives — undoubtedly surrogate USian agents — who had clandestinely infiltrated the Kremlin and had already secretly seized control in Belorussia.

    In today’s post-Soviet world, now eternally captured as it is by apocalyptic evil, the history of the last 165 years proves the Nazis always triumph; yes, they were winning even a half-century before our species’ globally terminal cancer was given the acronym “N.S.D.A.P. “

    Lastly, we can take the Nazi-conquered U.S. as our final, species-exterminating, world-destroying proof the Judeo-Christian claim of some “moral arc” that “curves toward justice” is but another example of the Big Lies that are leading our species to its doom.

    1. Obviously the moderators despise me, as they refused my written request to suppress the error in the above, a classic example of the old axiom “haste makes waste.” My fifth graf quotes Herb Steiner, not the person I mistakenly named.

  8. War is the devil in detail.
    As a lone individual, dumped in a fiery cauldron of death, it is beginning to look like Zelensky is more than just the puppet of the U.S. hegemon. He appears to be quite the artful dodger of his own personal fate; at least for now!
    For someone caught between a rock and a hard place, he is turning out to be quite the skillful negotiator. He is literally living in an explosive minefield, walking a very fine line between two opposing sets of handlers.
    On the one hand, it is his own ultra nationalist, fascist Ukrainians, and on the other, the fascists of the U.S. led Western plutocracy.
    The price, however, is daily, being indiscriminately paid by hoi polloi Ukrainians, who are randomly being picked off like flies being swatted by both sides – their own, and those who have been preselected as their enemy, by the master puppeteer, in the name of humanity — Western neoliberal corporate greed; and all because Russia, now lead by Putin, the ever-useful pretext for exceptionalist American expansionism; in full sovereignty, finally stood up to the Wests constant historical taunting.
    The global provocateur rogue U.S. state, has never legitimately been the friend of all of humanity, as it proclaims it is.
    It has historically, rather always been artfully selective in its choice of ‘friends’ allies and/or partners. Who best serves my purposes, at a particular given moment in time, is my friend, all ‘others’ pay, “in God We Trust” cash!
    How in-our-faces this observation is, right now, yet still, we the people, en masse – as one, remain passive.
    The ‘ultimate question’ is: Why is it that the meek – believing in humane cooperation, rather than destructive constant competitiveness, as the only way forward, are not the actual inheritor class, but always their intimidated slaves living in dearth?

  9. Exerpts from “A letter to the Western Left from Kyiv”, Published in OpenDemocracy


    This article is about the other part of the Western Left. Those who imagined ‘NATO aggression in Ukraine’, and who could not see Russian aggression – like the New Orleans chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

    Or the DSA International Committee, which published a shameful statement failing to say a single critical word against Russia (I am very thankful to US professor and activist Dan la Botz and the others for their critique of this statement).

    Or those who criticised Ukraine for not implementing the Minsk Agreements and kept silent about their violations by Russia and the so-called ‘People’s Republics’.

    Or those who exaggerated the influence of the far-Right in Ukraine, but did not notice the far-Right in the ‘People’s Republics’ and avoided criticising Putin’s conservative, nationalist and authoritarian policy.

    This is part of the wider phenomenon in the Western ‘anti-war’ movement, usually called ‘campism’ by critics on the Left. British-Syrian author and activist Leila Al-Shami gave it a stronger name: the “anti-imperialism of idiots”. Read her wonderful 2018 essay if you haven’t done so yet. I will repeat only the main thesis here: the activity of a large part of the Western ‘anti-war’ Left over the war in Syria had nothing to do with stopping the war. It only opposed Western interference, while ignoring, or even supporting, the engagement of Russia and Iran, to say nothing of their attitude to the ‘legitimately elected’ Assad regime in Syria.

    “A number of anti-war organisations have justified their silence on Russian and Iranian interventions by arguing that ‘the main enemy is at home,’” Al-Shami wrote. “This excuses them from undertaking any serious power analysis to determine who the main actors driving the war actually are.”

    Unfortunately, we have seen the same ideological cliché repeated over Ukraine. Even after Russia recognised the independence of the ‘People’s Republics’ earlier this week, Branko Marcetic, a writer for American Left magazine Jacobin, penned an article almost fully devoted to criticising the US. When it came to Putin’s intentions, he went only as far as remarking that the Russian leader had “signal[led] less-than-benign ambitions”. Seriously?

    I am not a fan of NATO. I know that after the end of the Cold War, the bloc lost its defensive function and led aggressive policies. I know that NATO’s eastward expansion undermined efforts directed at nuclear disarmament and forming a system of joint security. NATO tried to marginalise the role of the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and to discredit them as ‘inefficient organisations’. But we cannot bring back the past, and we have to orient ourselves on the current circumstances when seeking a way out of this situation.

    How many times did the Western Left bring up the US’s informal promises to the former Russian president, Mikhail Gorbachev, about NATO (“not one inch eastward”), and how many times did it mention the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty? How often did the Western Left support the “legitimate security concerns” of Russia, a state that owns the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal? And how often did it recall the security concerns of Ukraine, a state that had to trade its nuclear weapons, under the pressure of the US and Russia, for a piece of paper (the Budapest Memorandum) that Putin trampled conclusively in 2014? Did it ever occur to Leftist critics of NATO that Ukraine is the main victim of the changes brought about by the NATO expansion?

    Time and again, the Western Left responded to the critique of Russia by mentioning US aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq and other states. Of course, these states need to be brought into the discussion – but how, exactly?

    The argument of the Left should be, that in 2003, other governments did not put enough pressure on the United States over Iraq. Not that it is necessary to exert less pressure on Russia over Ukraine now.

    1. @DGA I grant it to you, antiwar left is phony not interested in world peace but in benefit for their masters as they stoop so low as to support children beheading Islamic terrorists in Syria, now supporting UkroNazis .

      However, It seems to me that you got habit of replacing to many facts with too much demagoguery and black and white pictures of unreality that is always wrong. It looks like you stopped balanced analytical thinking about the conflict at the moment of Feb 24, 2022 Russian intervention that has legal precedents provided among others by US in first gulf war.

      Let’s switch countries. Back then US (Russia) allied with Kuwait (LDPR) attacked Iraq (Ukraine) in order push Iraqi (Ukrainian) military from what Iraq (Ukraine) considered as renegade separatists province of Kuwait (Donbas). Similarity is uncanny. Attacking country that is attacking your ally is not only legal but it is a founding principle of NATO and US promise to NATO.

      As far as supposed unprovoked aggression. It is not a case. Russian intervention was conducted when Kiev regime war against LDPR in Donbas already started. The recent spasm of continuing from 2014 war did not start when Russians came in but on February 18 when AFU began massive artillery attack on LDPR including crossing frontlines in few points.

      LDPR defended itself for almost a week before RF military intervened on LDPR side.

      Factually there was no unprovoked attack of Russians as increasing ten fold shelling of free Donbas territory by AFU (from 100 shells a day a week before to nearly 2000 a day according to OECD afterwards , double rate of what was in 2014 was worst shelling) was nothing but open declaration of war against LDPR. Russia responded legally according to UN charter to fulfill its obligations to an ally under attack as NATO surely would, no UNSC resolutions needed.

      You seem to accept only reality that supports your preconceived notion of existence of good guys Ukraine (justified in all they do) and bad guys Russia (all what they do is wrong) as it is Russia that supposedly is sole aggressor in your mind. That is not so. There is a lot of blame to spread around and in fact Russian discretion seems relatively small as their hand is forced.

      In fact your dismissing as irrelevant long history of region called Ukraine(means borderlands of Russia and the west) interchangeably dominated by Russian as well as Austrian and Hungarian empires and their peoples with significant impact of Kingdom of Poland in last 1000 years. None of these centuries independent Ukrainian state and Ukrainian “nation” ever existed until 1992 when Ukraine was artificially created amid Soviet collapse composed of majority of Russian population with secular and religious affinity to Moscow and who wanted to stay with Russia and suddenly found themselves citizens of new state .

      Please do not speak of Ukrainians as a whole as Eastern and western Ukraine have very little in common historically, politically, economically today.

      How much they are divided was shown by an attempt by Yushtchenko after 2004 to make Stepan Bandera a national hero. He was Ukrainian nationalist, Nazi collaborator considered by Kiev regime father of modern Ukraine, while responsible for genocide of 250,000+ of ethnic Poles, Jews, Russians (local) Hungarians as well as 60,000+ of ethnic Ukrainians (who opposed his policy of nation building by means of ethnic cleansing and genocide). Imagine Hitler considered father of German nation. It’s nonsense.

      It was Yanukovitch who later rescinded that decision when he took power as over 22 millions of ethnic Russians were outraged as they condemned Bandera as Nazi war criminal who wanted them dead.

      Poroshenko “elected amid of Donbas Civil war of 2014 instead of seeking reconciliation among all Ukrainians opted for clear provocation by again making Bandera national hero and to double down on such insult to ethnic Russians created national holiday on Bandera birthday.

      Were in 2014 promoting Bandera, destroying monuments even graves commemorating defeat of Nazism or passing law prohibiting usage of Russian language in media and government all acts of reconciliation or acts of ethic hatred aimed to provoke Russians?

      Was attacking and beating up members of ruling party , Yanukovitch party of regions, preventing them from attending parliament sessions, kidnapping local officials in eastern Ukraine by Nazi gangs and arrests of politicians by SBU on made up charges of treason a sign of democratic aspirations, tolerance and devotion to rule of law of Kiev regime.? Not at all.

      Was destroying thousands of Russian owned or ethnic Russian Ukrainian owned businesses, terror and intimidation, boycotts burning gas stations selling Russian gas or taking hostage beatings of editors, Ukrainian citizen, journalists of Russian language press and media including TV, massive censorship, purging of academia acts of peace towards Russians while burning of Russian embassy in Kiev was an act of good friendly neighbor. Not at all.

      Or impeding legal Russian commerce like in case refusing entry of Russian truck drivers (in 2014 it was visa free travel ) or pilots and flight attendants locked in their airplanes for 24-48 hours in Kiev airport not allowed to leave airplane. Ukrainians refused Russians
      airplane basic maintenance. Were they acts of free trade and economic development.

      Or was that anything else but provocation when intercity buses and trains were stopped boarded by Nazi thugs to throw ethnic Russians out and rob them following by verbal assaults and intimidation , beatings and mock executions with few dead and hundreds of injured while weapons were discharged. These are just few examples of who are those who rule Ukraine in the past and today; ideologues of Nazis terror.

      Kiev regime in 2014 did everything they could to provoke Russian “humanitarian” intervention that never happened, as no one soldier crossed Ukraine borders in 2014 while there were only about 1000 Russian volunteers funded mostly by Putin opposition mostly from families of Donbas residents who came to defend them from assault of Nazi battalions. In comparison ATO involved 60-80k AFU and Nazi battalions and about 20-30k militia defending Donbas with dilapidated Afghan war equipment from vacated by Ukrainian military bases in Donbas. Putin gave no support of any kind to militia until first humanitarian convoy came to Donbas in October 2014. Instead he refused to recognize May 11 referendum of Donbas.autonomy/ independence, refused LDNR authorities request to join RF twice while accepted such request from Crimea and ordered stop of LDNR offensive of August 25-September 5, 2014 in outskirts of Mariupol for a promise to push for what later became worthless Minsk agreements.

      Putin despite of pleas from Donbas did not stop exporting natgas to Ukraine despite fact that Kiev openly refused to pay already 70% discounted gas and never paid for it. Instead within months Russia recognized Kiev Nazi regime sent military liaison officers to Donbas on Ukrainian side of frontline to observe LDPR cease fire violations while none on Militia side to monitor Ukrainian violations as LDPR was not recognized by Russia.

      Putin despite of personal insults from Ukrainian government and the west despite persecution of ethnic Russians in Ukraine was not provoked in 2014 moved troops to barracks effectively giving Kiev regime free hand to destroy Donbas and its 70% of ethnic Russian population. Putin did nothing even when two Russian citizen at the Russian border were killed and dozens of border and customs officers were injured by Ukrainian shelling. Ukraine 2014-15 civil war was for him not a reason for intervention however western belligerent attitudes and policies especially over last eight years arming Ukrainian regime, targeting Russian national security interests and threatening national defense strategy by expanding NATO was a legitimate reason.

      This war has very little to do with Ukraine and Ukrainian people it is all about one sided aggressive confrontation of NATO against Russia happened to be so far physically located in Ukraine as Kiev Nazi regime begged for it infected with Nazi ideology of hatred and death demanding human sacrifices among Ukrainians for their Washington masters.

    2. thanks very much. i was gonna contrast the breach of the WRITTEN Budapest memorandum [never mentioned] with the absolute outrage that some verbal promises concerning NATO were not kept… but ye beat me to it…..
      what also is not mentioned is that countries like the baltic states were not threatened into joining NATO, nor bribed… they BEGGED for years and years cause they wanted to be safe from Russia…just why would it be that all these former colonies of Russia are so afraid of the noble russians? why does Estonia have the audacity to -drawing on many decades of being occupied by Russia, mind ye – contradict Rob Roy’s version of the noble Russia there to help for goodness’ sake?
      anyway, thanks for yer post, a refreshing dose of truth….

  10. Thank you for the penetrating reporting. The whole situation seems an intractable mess. While it’s difficult to warm to Russia’s actions, it’s also difficult to expect Putin to do nothing when NATO continues expanding along his border and while ethnic Russians are getting slaughtered—for eight years now—in eastern Ukraine. Those people know the war didn’t start two months ago; it started after the 2014 coup.

    Independent journalist Patrick Lancaster has been reporting on the ground in Donbas throughout the civil war. His dispatches from hot zones, and the human misery going on right now, are vital to fully understanding what’s happening. Again and again, the poor folks he interviews on the street are blaming Azov forces and Zelensky for their misery. Here’s his channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/PatrickLancasterNewsToday/videos

  11. A Jewish fellow tolerating Nazis- that’s a good one.

    Coverage on the Ukraine problem has never really been complete. There seems to be no thought given to what resources Ukraine has that the Russians want. Such as the 500 year coal reserve in Donbas. According to Greek sources Putin created 7,200 instant Russian citizens by giving them passports to inhabit Donbas. Not a word of it here in the states. Complete reporting seems impossible these days.

    1. Nonsense. It was bad enough living eight years under threat of terror from long range artillery, aviation or ballistic missiles covering 95% of liberated Donbas and hence many left. However Putin gave Donbas residents opportunity to get Russian travel passports not to entice people to stay in Donbas (as they could move to Russia with passport ) but because Ukrainian government refused to provide them under illegal by Ukrainian law total economic blockade of Donbas since 2015. Western media was and is silent about Donbas suffering.

      What west does not know is that Russia recognized high school and College diplomas from Donbas including medical doctors diplomas as Kiev refused to do so. It was Russia that paid elderly pensions to people working entire lives in Ukrainian industry as Kiev refused to pay. Also Russia introduced rouble additionally to hryvna as currency as Ukrainian banks refused to serve Donbas people as well as Kiev regime refused to trade with Donbas. Poroshenko was indicted as he broke this embargo on trade and bought coal from Donbas as nothing else could be burned in Ukrainian power plants.

      There is a lot to learn about Donbas and also that as a result of Ukrainian blockade all these attempts to stabilize situation by closer economic integration of Donbas with Russia step by step were the reasons why western made Kiev regime and NATO escalated tensions and while Kiev was preparing to retake Donbas by force as Zelensky himself decreed in 2021.

  12. Remembering the Trump years where we belived that facists would take over usa- its not difficult to understand whats happened in Ukraine.

    After 4 more years of trump, where would the proud boys and oath-keepers been if they had the same powerfull media, military training and resources the azow has had.

  13. Remembering the Trump years where many og us belived that facists would take over usa- its not difficult to understand what has happened in Ukraine.

    After 4 more years of Trump, where would the proud boys and oath-keepers and other millitsia been if they had the same powerfull mediasupport, military training and resources the azow has had.

    And who would have stood up against this Trump militzia? The rigth wing us police? The BLM- antifa? (The ukranian- russians). The politicians? (There was plans and plots to kidnap leading politicians). We all would have been scared! Terrified!

  14. In the last Ukrainian election the far right parties received around 3% of the votes, far less than Poland, Germany or France. The so called Azov Battalion, the supposed Neo Nazi paramilitary group in Ukraine has about 1,000 members. That is less than 1% of paramilitary forces in Ukraine, which number is estimated around 120,000, and less than .5% of the entire Ukrainian military forces.

    The idea that the far right poses any threat at all in Ukraine, has any clout at all – military or political – as espoused in the bizarre and outrageous propaganda campaign by Putin, parroted shamelessly by left-ish Neo Progressive demagogue and propaganda buffs like Maté, is easily refuted.

  15. In general peace is a good idea, but considering what we know today, sensible honorable people should not want a, “peace agreement” or “negotiated settlement” in Ukraine just to save lives. Obviously you need to know something very serious to make that horrific claim, and we do.

    We know today that Nazis have huge leverage in Ukraine and know how to use it, and we know that Ukraine has the technical ability to build nuclear, bio and other weapons of the most serious kind. Those considerations make this crisis bigger than a rising death count of Ukrainian civilians. This crisis is about preventing the United States, from creating out of it’s own irresponsible stupidity and desire for world hegemony, a militarized fascist dominated state with nuclear and biological weapons.

    Anyone with knowledge of history of the region should be in fact supporting the Russia military action. The potential here if nothing were done by Russia, is at some point in the future an extension of the bloodlands written about in Tim Snyder’s 2010 book of the same name.

    History offers like cases for just war, that were carried out with more gross damage, and that in the end worked out very well considering the options at the time: Nazi Germany and fascist Japan were each decimated far more broadly, and both revived once their most vile contingent of nationalist fanatics were escorted out of the picture by force. Conversely recent history offers examples of false claims of existential danger in Iraq & Syria used to justify radically disproportionate US military force, resulting in no good & endless suffering. Within all this confusion therefore the one glaring truth may be American hypocrisy.

    History of the early 21st Century is going to thank the Russians and condemn the Americans. This is in fact a just war.

  16. Aaron Mate, this is pretty shitty reporting – i lost count on how often ye inserted that Zelensky was elected solely to achieve peace in russian-occupied donbas…. truth is – and here is Zelensky’s party program https://sluga-narodu.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Sluga_Narodu_Party_Election_Platform-1.pdf
    that Zelensky got elected as an outsider [like trump] who promised REFORM, to fight CORRUPTION, to reign in da OLIGARCHS etc. [the donbas conflict is barely mentioned] so you are just simply not telling truth here. ‘sad’…

  17. Good reporting. Sadly, it won’t piece the massive propaganda blitz of US and western media and MIC/national security state folks.

    Professors Cohen and Mearsheimer are the few voices of sanity and reason.

    Incredible irony that Dems forgot all about Obama’s opposition to arming Nazi’s when Trump came along.

    1. @Bill+Wolfe
      Yeah, to think that the president who drone bombed wedding parties and thousands of other civilians is a peacenik compared to these psychos.

  18. Another excellent column by Aaron Mate, totally exposing the U.S. and European propaganda about this situation.

    “‘I’m the president of this country. I’m 41 years old … I came to you and told you: remove the weapons,,’ Zelensky pleaded. But Zelensky met continued defiance. The same far-right forces set up an armed checkpoint to delay a Ukrainian military pullback.”

    That’s because power is an illusion, as Game of Thrones so clearly pointed out. Power rests with those who the people think it rests with. If you don’t have the military on your side, you have no power, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re the elected president, because the military doesn’t think you have the power and the military has all the weapons (and a lot more people than the elected politicians and bureaucrats in the government).

    This was not an opportunity lost by the U.S., as Stephen Cohen and Aaron Mate characterize it. The U.S. doesn’t give a damn about peace, it wants more world domination. The U.S. opportunity here was to weaken Russia, and the U.S. went for it. Of course this isn’t wise — it’s foolish, the exact opposite — because it’s driven by ego (lust for power) and materialism, two qualities that are greatly diminished if not extinguished in truly evolved people, and because it will lead to bad consequences for a large number of people and the rest of the planet, including a possible nuclear war. The reason I raise this issue is that if we’re going to fight the evil rulers, we have to understand their motives (among other things). If we don’t understand why they do what they do, we’re at an even bigger disadvantage than we should be.

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