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June 8, 2014


by Diana Johnstone

Source:  Counterpunch

NATO leaders are currently acting out a deliberate charade in Europe, designed to
reconstruct an Iron Curtain between Russia and the West.

With astonishing unanimity, NATO leaders feign surprise at events they planned
months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented
as sudden, astonishing, unjustified “Russian aggression”. The United States and the
European Union undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine that they knew
would force Russia to react defensively, one way or another.

They could not be sure exactly how Russian president Vladimir Putin would react
when he saw that the United States was manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to
install a pro-Western government intent on joining NATO.  This was not a mere matter
of a “sphere of influence” in Russia’s “near abroad”, but a matter of life and death to
the Russian Navy, as well as a grave national security threat on Russia’s border.

A trap was thereby set for Putin. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.  
He could underreact, and betray Russia’s basic national interests, allowing NATO to
advance its hostile forces to an ideal attack position.

Or he could overreact, by sending Russian forces to invade Ukraine.  The West was
ready for this, prepared to scream that Putin was “the new Hitler”, poised to overrun
poor, helpless Europe, which could only be saved (again) by the generous Americans.

In reality, the Russian defensive move was a very reasonable middle course.  Thanks
to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans felt Russian, having been
Russian citizens until Khrushchev frivolously bestowed the territory on Ukraine in
1954, a peaceful democratic solution was found.  Crimeans voted for their return to
Russia in a referendum which was perfectly legal according to international law,
although in violation of the Ukrainian constitution, which was by then in tatters having
just been violated by the overthrow of the country’s duly elected president, Victor
Yanukovych, facilitated by violent militias.  The change of status of Crimea was
achieved without bloodshed, by the ballot box.

Nevertheless, the cries of indignation from the West were every bit as hysterically
hostile as if Putin had overreacted and subjected Ukraine to a U.S.-style bombing
campaign, or invaded the country outright – which they may have expected him to do.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led the chorus of self-righteous indignation,
accusing Russia of the sort of thing his own government is in the habit of doing. “You
just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.
This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext”,
Kerry pontificated.  “It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century”. Instead of
laughing at this hypocrisy, U.S. media, politicians and punditry zealously took up the
theme of Putin’s unacceptable expansionist aggression. The Europeans followed with
a weak, obedient echo.

It Was All Planned at Yalta

In September 2013, one of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk, paid for an elite
strategic conference on Ukraine’s future that was held in the same Palace in Yalta,
Crimea, where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met to decide the future of Europe in
1945.  The Economist, one of the elite media reporting on what it called a “display of
fierce diplomacy”, stated that: “The future of Ukraine, a country of 48m people, and of
Europe was being decided in real time.” The participants included Bill and Hillary
Clinton, former CIA head General David Petraeus, former U.S. Treasury secretary
Lawrence Summers, former World Bank head Robert Zoellick, Swedish foreign
minister Carl Bildt, Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder, Dominique Strauss-
Kahn, Mario Monti, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, and Poland’s influential
foreign minister Radek Sikorski.  Both President Viktor Yanukovych, deposed five
months later, and his recently elected successor Petro Poroshenko were present.
Former U.S. energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to talk about the shale-gas
revolution which the United States hopes to use to weaken Russia by substituting
fracking for Russia’s natural gas reserves.  The center of discussion was the “Deep
and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement” (DCFTA) between Ukraine and the
European Union, and the prospect of Ukraine’s integration with the West.  The
general tone was euphoria over the prospect of breaking Ukraine’s ties with Russia in
favor of the West.

Conspiracy against Russia?  Not at all. Unlike Bilderberg, the proceedings were not
secret. Facing a dozen or so American VIPs and a large sampling of the European
political elite was a Putin adviser named Sergei Glazyev, who made Russia’s position
perfectly clear.

Glazyev injected a note of political and economic realism into the conference.   Forbes
reported at the time  on the “stark difference” between the Russian and Western
views “not over the advisability of Ukraine’s integration with the EU but over its likely
impact.”  In contrast to Western euphoria, the Russian view was based on “very
specific andpointed economic criticisms” about the Trade Agreement’s impact on
Ukraine’s economy, noting that Ukraine was running an enormous foreign accounts
deficit, funded with foreign borrowing, and that the resulting substantial increase in
Western imports ccould only swell the deficit.  Ukraine “will either default on its debts
or require a sizable bailout”.

The Forbes reporter concluded that “the Russian position is far closer to the truth
than the happy talk coming from Brussels and Kiev.”

As for the political impact, Glazyev pointed out that the Russian-speaking minority in
Eastern Ukraine might move to split the country in protest against cutting ties with
Russia, and that Russia would be legally entitled to support them, according to The
Times of London.

In short, while planning to incorporate Ukraine into the Western sphere, Western
leaders were perfectly aware that this move would entail serious problems with
Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and with Russia itself.  Rather than seeking to work out
a compromise, Western leaders decided to forge ahead and to blame Russia for
whatever would go wrong.  What went wrong first was that Yanukovych  got cold feet
faced with the economic collapse implied by the Trade Agreement with the European
Union.  He postponed signing, hoping for a better deal. Since none of this was
explained clearly to the Ukrainian public, outraged protests ensued, which were
rapidly exploited by the United States… against Russia.

Ukraine as Bridge…Or Achilles Heel

Ukraine, a term meaning borderland, is a country without clearly fixed historical
borders that has been stretched too far to the East and too far to the West.  The
Soviet Union was responsible for this, but the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the
result is a country without a unified identity and which emerges as a problem for itself
and for its neighbors.

It was extended too far East, incorporating territory that might as well have been
Russian, as part of a general policy to distinguish the USSR from the Tsarist empire,
enlarging Ukraine at the expense of its Russian component and demonstrating that
the Soviet Union was really a union among equal socialist republics.  So long as the
whole Soviet Union was run by the Communist leadership, these borders didn’t matter
too much.

It was extended too far West at the end of World War II. The victorious Soviet Union
extended Ukraine’s border to include Western regions, dominated by the city variously
named Lviv, Lwow,  Lemberg or Lvov, depending on whether it belonged to Lithuania,
Poland, the Habsburg Empire or the USSR, a region which was a hotbed of anti-
Russian sentiments. This was no doubt conceived as a defensive move, to neutralize
hostile elements, but it created the fundamentally divided nation that today constitutes
the perfect troubled waters for hostile fishing.

The Forbes report cited above pointed out that: “For most of the past five years,
Ukraine was basically playing a double game, telling the EU that it was interested in
signing the DCFTA while telling the Russians that it was interested in joining the
customs union.”  Either Yanukovych could not make up his mind, or was trying to
squeeze the best deal out of both sides, or was seeking the highest bidder.  In any
case, he was never “Moscow’s man”, and his downfall owes a lot no doubt to his own
role in playing both ends against the middle. His was a dangerous game of pitting
greater powers against each other.

It is safe to say that what was needed was something that so far seems totally lacking
in Ukraine: a leadership that recognizes the divided nature of the country and works
diplomatically to find a solution that satisfies both the local populations and their
historic ties with the Catholic West and with Russia.  In short, Ukraine could be a
bridge between East and West – and this, incidentally, has been precisely the
Russian position.  The Russian position has not been to split Ukraine, much less to
conquer it, but to facilitate the country’s role as bridge.  This would involve a degree
of federalism, of local government, which so far is entirely lacking in the country, with
local governors selected not by election but by the central government in Kiev.  A
federal Ukraine could both develop relations with the EU and maintain its vital (and
profitable) economic relations with Russia.

But this arrangement calls for Western readiness to cooperate with Russia. The
United States has plainly vetoed this possibility, preferring to exploit the crisis to brand
Russia “the enemy”.

Plan A and Plan B

U.S. policy, already evident at the September 2013 Yalta meeting, was carried out on
the ground by Victoria Nuland, former advisor to Dick Cheney, deputy ambassador to
NATO, spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, wife of neocon theorist Robert Kagan. Her
leading role in the Ukraine events proves that the neo-con influence in the State
Department, established under Bush II, was retained by Obama, whose only visible
contribution to foreign policy change has been the presence of a man of African
descent in the presidency, calculated to impress the world with U.S. multicultural
virtue.  Like most other recent presidents, Obama is there as a temporary salesman
for policies made and executed by others.

As Victoria Nuland boasted in Washington, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in
1991, the United States has spent five billion dollars to gain political influence in
Ukraine (this is called “promoting democracy”).  This investment is not “for oil”, or for
any immediate economic advantage. The primary motives are geopolitical, because
Ukraine is Russia’s Achilles’ heel, the territory with the greatest potential for causing
trouble to Russia.

What called public attention to Victoria Nuland’s role in the Ukrainian crisis was her
use of a naughty word, when she told the U.S. ambassador, “Fuck the EU”.  But the
fuss over her bad language veiled her bad intentions.  The issue was who should take
power away from the elected president Viktor Yanukovych.  German Chancellor
Angela Merkel’s party been promoting former boxer Vitaly Klitschko as its candidate.  
Nuland’s rude rebuff signified that the United States, not Germany or the EU, was to
choose the next leader, and that was not Klitschko but “Yats”.  And indeed it was Yats,
Arseniy Yatsenyuk , a second-string US-sponsored technocrat known for his
enthusiasm for IMF austerity policies and NATO membership, who got the job. This
put a U.S. sponsored government, enforced in the streets by fascist militia with little
electoral clout but plenty of armed meanness, in a position to manage the May 25
elections, from which the Russophone East was largely excluded.

Plan A for the Victoria Nuland putsch was probably to install, rapidly, a government in
Kiev that would join NATO, thus formally setting the stage for the United States to take
possession of Russia’s indispensable Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol in Crimea.  
Reincorporating Crimea into Russia was Putin’s necessary defensive move to prevent

But the Nuland gambit was in fact a win-win ploy.  If Russia failed to defend itself, it
risked losing its entire southern fleet – a total national disaster.  On the other hand, if
Russia reacted, as was most likely, the US thereby won a political victory that was
perhaps its main objective.  Putin’s totally defensive move is portrayed by the Western
mainstream media, echoing political leaders, as unprovoked “Russian expansionism”,
which the propaganda machine compares to Hitler grabbing Czechoslovakia and

Thus a blatant Western provocation, using Ukrainian political confusion against a
fundamentally defensive Russia, has astonishingly succeeded in producing a total
change in the artificial Zeitgeist produced by Western mass media.  Suddenly, we are
told that the “freedom-loving West” is faced with the threat of “aggressive Russian
expansionism”.  Some forty years ago, Soviet leaders gave away the store under the
illusion that peaceful renunciation on their part could lead to a friendly partnership
with the West, and especially with the United States.  But those in the United States
who never wanted to end the Cold War are having their revenge.  Never mind
“communism”; if, instead of advocating the dictatorship of the proletariat, Russia’s
current leader is simply old-fashioned in certain ways, Western media can fabricate a
monster out of that.  The United States needs an enemy to save the world from.

The Protection Racket Returns

But first of all, the United States needs Russia as an enemy in order to “save
Europe”,  which is another way to say, in order to continue to dominate Europe.  
Washington policy-makers seemed to be worried that Obama’s swing to Asia and
neglect of Europe might weaken U.S. control of its NATO allies.  The May 25
European Parliament elections revealed a large measure of disaffection with the
European Union.  This disaffection, notably in France, is linked to a growing
realization that the EU, far from being a potential alternative to the United States, is in
reality a mechanism that locks European countries into U.S.-defined globalization,
economic decline and U.S. foreign policy, wars and all.

Ukraine is not the only entity that has been overextended.  So has the EU.  With 28
members of diverse language, culture, history and mentality, the EU is unable to
agree on any foreign policy other than the one Washington imposes.  The extension
of the EU to former Eastern European satellites has totally broken whatever deep
consensus might have been possible among the countries of the original Economic
Community: France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux states.  Poland and the Baltic
States see EU membership as useful, but their hearts are in America – where many of
their most influential leaders have been educated and trained.  Washington is able to
exploit the anti-communist, anti-Russian and even pro-Nazi nostalgia of northeastern
Europe to raise the false cry of “the Russians are coming!” in order to obstruct the
growing economic partnership between the old EU, notably Germany, and Russia.

Russia is no threat. But to vociferous Russophobes in the Baltic States, Western
Ukraine and Poland, the very existence of Russia is a threat.  Encouraged by the
United States and NATO, this endemic hostility is the political basis for the new “iron
curtain” meant to achieve the aim spelled out in 1997 by Zbigniew Brzezinski in The
Grand Chessboard: keeping the Eurasian continent divided in order to perpetuate U.
S. world hegemony.  The old Cold War served that purpose, cementing U.S. military
presence and political influence in Western Europe. A new Cold War can prevent U.S.
influence from being diluted by good relations between Western Europe and Russia.

Obama has come to Europe ostentatiously promising to “protect” Europe by basing
more troops in regions as close as possible to Russia, while at the same time ordering
Russia to withdraw its own troops, on its own territory, still farther away from troubled
Ukraine.  This appears designed to humiliate Putin and deprive him of political support
at home, at a time when protests are rising in Eastern Ukraine against the Russian
leader for abandoning them to killers sent from Kiev.

To tighten the U.S. grip on Europe, the United States is using the artificial crisis to
demand that its indebted allies spend more on “defense”, notably by purchasing U.S.
weapons systems. Although the U.S. is still far from being able to meet Europe’s
energy needs from the new U.S. fracking boom, this prospect is being hailed as a
substitute for Russia’s natural gas sales  – stigmatized as a “way of exercising political
pressure”, something of which hypothetic U.S. energy sales are presumed to be
innocent.  Pressure is being brought against Bulgaria and even Serbia to block
construction of the South Stream pipeline that would bring Russian gas into the
Balkans and southern Europe.

From D-Day to Dooms Day

Today, June 6, the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landing is being played in
Normandy as a gigantic celebration of American domination, with Obama heading an
all-star cast of European leaders. The last of the aged surviving soldiers and aviators
present are like the ghosts of a more innocent age when the United States was only at
the start of its new career as world master. They were real, but the rest is a charade.  
French television is awash with the tears of young villagers in Normandy who have
been taught that the United States is some sort of Guardian Angel, which sent its boys
to die on the shores of Normandy out of pure love for France. This idealized image of
the past is implicitly projected on the future.  In seventy years, the Cold War, a
dominant propaganda narrative and above all Hollywood have convinced the French,
and most of the West, that D-Day was the turning point that won World War II and
saved Europe from Nazi Germany.

Vladimir Putin came to the celebration, and has been elaborately shunned by Obama,
self-appointed arbiter of Virtue.  The Russians are paying tribute to the D-Day
operation which liberated France from Nazi occupation, but they – and historians –
know what most of the West has forgotten: that the Wehrmacht was decisively
defeated not by the Normandy landing, but by the Red Army.  If the vast bulk of
German forces had not been pinned down fighting a losing war on the Eastern front,
nobody would celebrate D-Day as it is being celebrated today.

Putin is widely credited as being “the best chess player”, who won the first round of
the Ukrainian crisis.  He has no doubt done the best he could, faced with the crisis
foisted on him.  But the U.S. has whole ranks of pawns which Putin does not have.
And this is not only a chess game, but chess combined with poker combined with
Russian roulette. The United States is ready to take risks that the more prudent
Russian leaders prefer to avoid… as long as possible.

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the current charade is the servility of the
“old” Europeans.  Apparently abandoning all Europe’s accumulated wisdom, drawn
from its wars and tragedies, and even oblivious to their own best interests, today’s
European leaders seem ready to follow their American protectors to another D-Day …
D for Doom.

Can the presence of a peace-seeking Russian leader in Normandy make a
difference?  All it would take would be for mass media to tell the truth, and for Europe
to produce reasonably wise and courageous leaders, for the whole fake war machine
to lose its luster, and for truth to begin to dawn. A peaceful Europe is still possible, but
for how long?

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western
. She can be reached at