Blake Fleetwood Opinion Original

Blake Fleetwood: No Question, Ukraine Is Now America’s War

Pope Francis: Ukraine war is “fueled by imperial interests of several empires.”
President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace, Monday, February 20, 2023, during an unannounced trip to Kyiv, Ukraine. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz). The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Blake Fleetwood / Original to ScheerPost

No, the U.S. did not invade in the same way that Russia brutally invaded a year ago. But in other significant ways, America, with its massive flow of arms and weapons, is now in control of how this war ends—and when. 

It is a fiction of the highest order when President Biden confidently says that President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have to decide on negotiations for a settlement and ceasefire.

No rational person believes this.

Peace Plans

This question is particularly relevant after Pope Francis, head of 1.3 billion Catholics, recently called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and declared that the ongoing Ukraine war is “fuelled by imperial interests of several empires.” 

Pope Francis directly blamed the rampant supply of arms, tanks and now planes by multiple countries into the war zone.

In an earlier interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, as reported in the Guardian, “the pontiff condemned the ‘ferocity and cruelty of the Russian troops’ while warning against what he said was a fairytale perception of the conflict as good versus evil. “We need to move away from the usual Little Red Riding Hood pattern, in that Little Red Riding Hood was good and the wolf was the bad one. Something global is emerging and the elements are very much entwined.’”

The Pope earlier said, “The number of dead, wounded, refugees and displaced people, the destruction and economic and social damage, speak for themselves.” 

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This week China’s President XI went to Russia supposedly to promote a similar 12 Point Peace Plan which called for ceasing hostilities respecting the sovereignty of all countries, and resolving the humanitarian crisis (seemingly a reversal of Beijing’s support for Russia).

China was attempting to harness discontent in the broader third world over sanctions and a possible wider war by pointing out that the U.S. is continuing to dangerously escalate great power tensions. President Biden quickly rejected both ceasefire proposals and stated that China’s plan was “not rational.”

What is not rational, in fact, is that this continuing war is killing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, devastating cities and threatening to escalate into a Third World War and even a possible nuclear holocaust. Undeterred, President Xi plans to speak directly with President Zelensky, who expressed interest.

Most Americans ordinarily would be shocked at the idea that a ceasefire, under any terms, is “not rational.” The U.S. has been trying to convince China not to send weapons to Russia.

Goebbels said that ordinary people never want to go to war. But if you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it. The propaganda machine in the U.S. has worked—just as it worked during the Vietnam and the Iraq wars—and now many Americans, including our political leaders and the mainstream media, have been propagandized to believe that continuing a violent war is preferable to a ceasefire.

Washington’s central message is that this is a fight to preserve democracy against illiberal authoritarianism. That a new European Domino theory is in effect—the long discredited Vietnam War rationale—which led to millions of unnecessary casualties. But Washington doesn’t seem to be too concerned with democracy in the dozens of dictatorships around the world with which the U.S. has continuing good relations.

Ordinary people do not want war. A Pew survey earlier this year revealed that Americans consider promoting democracy abroad as one of the least important priorities for U.S. foreign policy. But our  political leaders and U.S. mainstream media will not allow for Peace Plans to even be aired, much less discussed. Calls for a ceasefire are silenced and labeled as traitorous. Truth, as they say, is the first casualty of war.

The Ukrainian military would not have lasted a week after the initial Russian onslaught had it not been for the flood of U.S. weapons, missiles, tanks, drones and money supplied since the  2014 coup. Most of the military and financial support is coming from America. The U.S.  is supplying over 90% of the funds–$117 billion–to arm Ukraine, while Germany, $6.5 billion, France $1.6 billion, and Italy $1 billion, combined have sent less than $9 billion. This is a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia and it will be fought up until the last Ukrainian is bleeding. It is up to America to decide when the shooting, bloodsheding, and carnage will stop.

Of course, the Russian invasion was horrible and brutal and stupid. The whole world has rightly admired the Ukraine fighters’ determination and heroic courage.

But as a historical review shows, America does not have clean hands.

Since the 1990s, Ukraine has been ruled by a succession of corrupt presidents and oligarchs representing the eastern (Russian leaning) and western (European leaning)  parts of the country. Free speech, elections, and the rule of law in Ukraine have traditionally ranked among the lowest in all of Europe. The stated reason NATO repeatedly rejected and stalled Ukraine’s bid to join NATO was connected to these democratic deficiencies.

Ukraine has been a direct American puppet regime since 2014 when a CIA front, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) helped overthrow a democratically elected pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, in a violent coup.

In a now famous intercepted recording of a telephone call–now on Youtube – Victoria Nuland,  Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, can be heard  “midwifing” Yanukovych’s ouster, and naming several handpicked individuals to head the post-coup.

After the 2014 coup, a pro western, U.S.-approved president was installed–this one was equally as corrupt as his predecessor. What then followed was a slew of new laws shutting down Russian-language media and jailing those with pro-Russian voices. In the Donbass, the Kiev government  banned the Russian language from schools and public places like stores and restaurants. Any business caught violating the law was subject to a fine. Eastern Ukrainians were prevented from speaking Russian, their native language. And instead of allowing local elections of mayors and police chiefs, local officials were appointed by a far off Kiev government.

Not surprisingly, a spontaneous separatists’ movement arose. This was brutally suppressed by western Ukrainians, who used American weapons and bombs to intimidate the separatists with much bloodshed. This, in turn, prompted the Russians to move in with weapons and so called “volunteers.”

Most of the civilian casualties between 2014 and 2022 were in the eastern break-away section of Ukraine as Kiev tried to reassert its authority.

The Ukraine war is not unique in the post-Soviet era. In order to truly understand its origins, you have to go back to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Tensions and conflicts arose in many, if not most, of the post-Soviet states, usually where the new international borders did not match the ethnic affiliations of local populations. There was also the problem that these new countries contained a sizable group of resident Russians and other minority ethnic groups, which caused conflicts with the majority local population. This was a common occurrence in almost all the post-Soviet countries:  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, KazakhstanKyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

In the 1990s, I toured six of these newly minted post-Soviet nations in Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, I discovered first hand the deep resentment of the Kazakhs toward resident Russians. My group was attacked with flying fists by a band of young Kazakhs, who thought we were Russians. They only backed off when we produced our American passports. Apparently, we had wandered into a bar where Russians, perhaps 40% of the population then, were not welcome.

Fifteen years ago in Georgia, these tensions broke out into a full-scale war when two breakaway republics revolted against the Tbilisi central government. 

When the government military invaded the would-be separatists, Russia declared war on Georgia, responding with air strikes and sending in troops. An estimated 850 people were killed, and thousands of Georgians were displaced in fighting that lasted five days. In the end, a stalemate was reached where two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, became autonomous and somewhat independent—post-Soviet “frozen conflict“—zones. 

A “frozen conflict” is a situation in which active armed conflict has been brought to an end, but no peace treaty or other political framework resolves the conflict to the satisfaction of the combatants. Georgia still considers the two territories, which are populated with different ethnic groups, a part of their country. Russia considers them independent.

Nagorno-Karabakh is another example; internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but  after several wars, most of the region is ruled by a de facto independent Armenian ethnic majority state. North and South Korea are also an  example of a frozen conflict zone. There is a cease fire, but a state of war officially rages on. The UN standoff in the war in Cyprus between the Greeks and the Turks has lasted nearly 50 years. Yes, a war exists, but no firing is taking place.

This is what many observers think will inevitably happen in Ukraine. In none of the other post-Soviet era conflicts did the U.S. become as heavily involved. 

Putin will never tolerate a defeat and Zelensky, with the help of U.S. weapons, seems to be dug in for the long haul while hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians continue to be slaughtered and maimed. 

The U.S. involvement in Ukraine will rank as one of America’s worst geopolitical blunders ever. Many European policy leaders fear continued brinkmanship toward Russia, like America First conservatives, will eventually lead to lead to a broader war, possibly with nuclear elements or even a Third World War. 

But perhaps the worst consequence is that with our worldwide sanctions, we have alienated China and driven it  into an anti-American alliance with its traditional enemy: Russia.  After his visit to Moscow, China’s President Xi boasted that the new relationship will bring about changes that “haven’t happened in 100 years.”

Moreover, America’s “you are with us or against us” attitude has antagonized India, large parts of Africa and much of Latin America, drawing them closer and closer into China’s orbit.The war has allowed long buried anti-American resentments to surface and find a united voice that was never articulated before.

America’s Ukraine war is also threatening the  dollar’s position as the world’s dominant reserve currency. Over the last 70 years, this has been an incredible financial asset, worth $500 to $700 billion per year, that has hugely benefited our economy and trading position.  

But since 2014, Russia has been moving away from investing in U.S. bonds. Currently, China is trying to establish the renminbi as a formidable competitor to the greenback—a strategy  worth paying particularly close attention to, says Stanford’s Matteo Maggiori. India has started paying for Russian oil with the renminbi and other countries may soon abandon the dollar as a trading currency. Last year, new investments into China surpassed new investments in America.

If the dollar is even partially dislodged as the world’s currency,  it would be a fiscal catastrophe for America’s economy, which leads to this question: Why is the U.S. risking all this? The ominous anti-American rapprochement between Russia and China is leading the U.S. into a new Cold War with two nuclear superpowers. Some commentators have pointed to what is called Thucydides Trap: a theory coined by eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison, primarily used to describe a potential conflict between the United States and China. In Destined for War, he explains that when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling hegemon, the most likely outcome is war. Ominously, in a study of 16 historical instances, 12 ended violently.

The Ukrainian war will end in a settlement. The only question is whether that settlement comes sooner or later. Pope Francis said, “Let us remain close to the martyred Ukrainian people who continue to suffer.” The pontiff then pressed for the warring sides and “those in power in countries to make concrete efforts to end the war, achieve a ceasefire, and start peace talks.” Amen.

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Blake Fleetwood
Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood was formerly a reporter on the staff of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic, and the Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to New York City at the age of four. He graduated from Bard College and did graduate work in political science and comparative politics at Columbia University. He has also taught politics at New York University.

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