by Brecht Jonkers (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 4, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1443)
The Russian special military operation against Ukraine marks Moscow’s latest response against ever encroaching NATO efforts at expansion. It is also to end nearly eight years of Ukrainian aggression against the Russian-speaking population of Donbass. These developments have turned the world as we knew it upside down.
The conflict in Ukraine has been raging since 2014. It started almost immediately after a NATO-backed coup d’etat in the west as EuroMaidan met with fierce opposition in Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea. However, western corporate media and public opinion seemingly had never caught on to this fact, and only really started dedicating screen time to the battles following Russia’s operations in late February.
Whereas some western media channels had mentioned the threat of neo-Nazi groups such as the Azov Battalion during the earlier conflict in 2014, this is not the case in recent developments. Western pundits have gone into overdrive trying to whitewash these newly rebranded “Ukrainian patriots”.
NATO’s involvement in Ukraine should not come as a surprise. Back in 2014, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland threatened heavy sanctions during the so-called “EuroMaidan” coup against Ukraine if then President Viktor Yanukovych did not step down immediately. Soon after his overthrow, Hunter Biden, son of the current US president, was appointed to the board of Ukraine’s largest private gas producer Burisma, despite not being versed in either the Ukrainian language or the subject of gas exploitation.
While dealings with the Biden family and other leading figures with ties to the Obama regime eventually got the attention of even the top prosecutor of Ukraine, who can’t exactly be accused of any pro-Russian bias, this case was all but shut down when US court proceedings seized communications between Kiev and Donald Trump’s former legal advisor and former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani. A classic case of US mudslinging and dirty political infighting getting in the way of actually finding out the truth.
Of course, the importance of Ukraine for US foreign policy and NATO at large are not limited to shady dealings by members of the Biden family or Obama regime veterans. Ukraine has for years been seen as the next major step for NATO expansion. Strategically located at the Black Sea and sharing a land border with Russia, it made for the perfect jumping board towards Russia proper in any future conflict.
The US think tank, RAND Corporation, which specializes in offering research and analysis to the US military, has been emphasizing Ukraine for years, including in their 2019 tract “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia”. In a refreshing case of openness and honesty, the imperial think tank bluntly analyzed the “benefits” of things like “imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions” on Russia, “providing lethal aid to Ukraine”, “reducing Russian influence in Central Asia”, “flipping Transnistria” and “encouraging domestic protests”. Sometimes, the western imperial powers’ plans are out in the open for all to see.
For its part, the European Investment Bank sank over half a billion dollars into economic infrastructure projects across Ukraine in 2021 alone, despite constant instability and the ongoing conflict between Kiev and anti-coup insurgents in Donbass. No wonder, aside from geopolitical and geographical advantages, Ukraine is bursting at the seams with natural resources.
The country is Europe’s main producer of uranium, second in titanium and mercury and third in proven reserves of shale gas. More notably, Ukraine possesses the world’s second-largest reserves of iron ore and manganese, and eighth-largest amount of coal.
In a world economy that increasingly revolves around precious metals for the production of high-end and durable equipment (remember Elon Musk’s blatant admission of involvement in the lithium coup against Bolivia?), control of the mines in Donbass is of great importance.
Western sanctions against Russia that followed the latest stage of the Ukraine conflict, have sent the global markets into a frenzy to the detriment of many.
Natural gas prices on the global markets rose from US$4.27 per metric million British thermal unit on March 1, to $7.90 on May 20; crude oil from $90 per barrel to $111.67; and the cost of coal even more than doubled from $205.73 to $412.10 per ton.
Perhaps even more directly tied to the livelihood of much of the world’s population, Ukraine is also the top producer and exporter of sunflower oil, third-largest producer of potatoes and fourth-largest exporter of corn on the planet. This, tied to the rash and in the long-run possibly suicidal economic sanctions against the world’s leading wheat exporter Russia, has caused a food price crisis of worrying proportions.
Western powers must now urgently think about whether their geopolitical concerns regarding Russia are worth the price hikes and suffering inflicted on their own populations that hawkish responses may cause, especially since India has also decided to significantly reduce wheat exports to global markets.
NATO gambled on the idea that Russia would stand by idly and accept encroachment on its borders. Perhaps emboldened by the fact that the Baltic states were able to join, in direct violation of the 1990 promise that NATO would not move “one inch to the east”, the idea took root in Brussels and Washington that the next big fish was Ukraine. Far preceding the Russian military operation that started in February, Kiev had already received over $2.5 billion worth of weapons since 2014, mainly for use against anti-coup revolutionaries in Donbass. Armed to the teeth with western military equipment, forces of the Maidanite government engaged in a bitter conflict across Donetsk and Lugansk that claimed over 14,000 lives long before Moscow sent any of its troops.
Whether or not the European and American supporters of the Kiev regime intended to, the vast quantities of military equipment making their way into the hands of avowed anti-Russian forces and openly Nazi sympathising extremists, made a peaceful resolution of the Donbass conflict nearly impossible. Despite two rounds of negotiations resulting in the Minsk Agreements that saw the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics agree to rejoin Ukraine under specific conditions, facts on the ground quickly showed that Kiev had no intention of abiding by what had been agreed.
Western reporters with some degree of honesty and integrity, even those opposed to Russia, have admitted the fault of their own governments. Jo Adetunji, writing for media outlet The Conversation, worded it as follows: “For Putin, the only solution in the face of a lack of progress on the Minsk Protocols and western unwillingness to take Russian demands seriously has been to recognize the breakaway republics and move from covert to overt military action.”
One does not have to be a “Kremlin supporter” to understand the basic fact that continued NATO expansion, anti-Russian rhetoric, long history of regime change operations and the resulting disastrous consequences such as in Libya, and a willingness to pump billions of dollars worth of high-end weapons into the hands of proxies with questionable intentions would cause grave concern in Moscow.
Rather than NATO calling Russia’s bluff, it seems to have been Moscow that has caught its geopolitical opponents off guard. Even established western foreign outlets such as The Atlantic have started calling for calm and cool-headed response in the western halls of power, in an apparent admission that short of starting a world war there isn’t much the west can do at the moment. Of course, in typical eurocentric fashion, the pundits found it necessary to masquerade their admission of defeat behind the claim that war against Russia would only embolden Putin and cement his position of power.
What these western pundits perhaps deliberately leave out of their analysis is the array of advanced military equipment that Russia has been showing off both in direct combat and in domestic military tests, and is often seemingly created specifically for the sake of deterrence. The most awe-inspiring and terrifying of these weapons systems is likely the RS-28 Sarmat missile. It is a super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the capacity to carry up to 15 separately deployable nuclear warheads on a single missile.
Along with the hypersonic plane-launched Kinzhal missile that was in fact used in combat on March 19, and other upcoming potential game-changers such as nuclear-powered cruise missiles and even an intercontinental nuclear-powered torpedo, these developments make it clear that Vladimir Putin is confident enough to vow “a lightning-quick response” if NATO were to intervene militarily.
This is not to say that NATO regimes will not keep trying to frustrate Russia and its allies at every turn. A historic bill of support to Ukraine was passed in Congress just recently, sending the astronomical sum of 40 billion dollars to Kiev, while blocking urgently needed financial support for struggling small businesses in the US itself. The bill was passed despite fierce opposition from US lawmakers such as Rand Paul, who called out the folly of handing out money that the US frankly doesn’t even have and needs to borrow in the first place.
Similarly, the support of foreign fighters for Ukraine is unlikely to cease anytime soon. Even the Ukrainian regime admitted that at least 20,000 foreign volunteers have participated to support it in the conflict. These mercenaries have come from 52 different countries. Whether or not this is good optics for a conflict that Kiev is trying to frame as a war of national defence against foreign invasion, is a different matter.
Adam Delimkhanov, member of the Russian State Duma who was recently awarded the title Hero of Russia, has already compared the plethora of foreign fighters in Ukraine to the Wahhabi terrorists that swarmed his native Chechnya and nearby regions during the war in the early 21st century. Regardless, testimonies by some of the mercenaries paint a picture that is less rosy than what western media outlets would have us believe, with one former British militia member stating that as much as 80% of foreign troops have already left Ukraine due to lack of communication, poor command and severe shortage of weaponry in Zelensky’s ranks.
Of course, there are always other venues open for military support to the Ukrainian frontlines. The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation recently published reports claiming the US is actively recruiting and training militants from a variety of “rebel” and terrorist groups active in Syria, for deployment in Ukraine. This reportedly goes as far as Daesh (ISIS) terrorists, who are being trained and armed in the areas of Syria that the US still illegally occupies.
At the same time, a certain war fatigue seems to be taking hold of public opinion in the west. A war fatigue for a war that westerners aren’t even really fighting to begin with, but are nevertheless feeling its economic consequences. Whereas the western corporate media boasted that Russia’s population would turn against Putin in a matter of weeks and overthrow in disgust and anger, the approval rating of the Russian president is in fact higher than it has been in years. By contrast, a study by the European Parliament found that only a small minority of Europeans actually favour any form of military response to Russian special operations, and only about half support financial support to Kiev.
With even western corporate media outlets such as Politico warning that “we are not all Ukrainians” and that “pretending Western interests are fully aligned with Kiev’s risks further escalating the war”, the simplistic NATO narrative about what is happening in Ukraine is collapsing like a house of cards. While it remains to be seen whether the west’s collective mindset can still be swayed in favour of further war for the sake of Eurocentric supremacy, one thing is for certain. The time for NATO expansion is over. Its “Drive to the East” (“Drang nach Osten” as it was called in the original German phrase) has been halted, probably permanently.