The US Destroyed the Nord Stream Pipeline / An Interview with Seymour Hersh by Fabian Scheidler

Seymour Hersh speaking at the Molly Awards banquet on June 10, 2010. (Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Getty Images)

Originally published in Jacobin on February 15, 2023

Last week, renowned investigative reporter Seymour Hersh published an article claiming that the US was responsible for the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline transporting natural gas to Germany from Russia. He spoke to Jacobin about the allegations.

On September 26, 2022, the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany was largely destroyed by several explosions in the Baltic Sea. Last week, the award-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh published an article, based on information from a single anonymous source, arguing that the Biden administration and the CIA were responsible.

Hersh won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for the role he played in breaking the story of the Mỹ Lai massacre, an incident in which US soldiers killed between three and five hundred unarmed civilians. He spoke to Fabian Scheidler for Jacobin about the allegations he made in his most recent article and the influence that the CIA and the national security state has on American foreign policy.


Please start to lay out your findings in detail. What happened precisely according to your source, who was involved, and what were the motives behind it?


What I’ve done is simply explain the obvious. It was just a story that was begging to be told. In late September of 2022, eight bombs were supposed to go off; six went off under the water near the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, in the area where it is rather shallow. They destroyed three of the four major pipelines in the Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Nord Stream 1 has been feeding gas fuel [to Germany] for many years at very low prices. And then both pipelines were blown up, and the question was why, and who did it. On February 7, 2022, in the buildup to the war in Ukraine, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, at a press conference at the White House with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, said that we can stop Nord Stream.


The exact wording from Joe Biden was “If Russia invades, there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2, we will bring an end to it.” And when a reporter asked how exactly he intended to do it, given that the project was within the control of Germany, Biden just said, “I promise we will be able to do it.”


His under secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, who was deeply involved in what they call the Maidan Revolution in 2014, used similar language a couple of weeks earlier.


You say that the decision to take out the pipeline was taken even earlier by President Biden. You lay out the story from the beginning, chronologically from December 2021, when the national security advisor Jake Sullivan convened, according to your piece, a meeting of the newly formed task force from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, the State and the Treasury departments. You write, “Sullivan intended for the group to come up with a plan for the destruction of the two Nord Stream pipelines.”


This group initially was convened in December to study the problem. They brought in the CIA and so on; they were meeting in a very secret office. Right next door to the White House, there’s an office building that’s called the Executive Office Building. It is connected underground through a tunnel. And at the top of it is a meeting place for a secret group, an outside group of advisors called the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. I only reported that to let the people in the White House know that I do know something.

The meeting was convened to study the problem: What are we going to do if Russia is going to war? This is three months before the war, before Christmas of 2022. It was a high-level group; it probably had a different name, I just called it the “interagency group” — I don’t know the formal name, if there was one. It was the CIA and the National Security Agency, which monitors and intercepts communications; the State Department and the Treasury Department, which supplies money; and probably a few other groups that were involved. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had representation as well.

The big task they had was to give recommendations about what to do about stopping Russia, measures that are either reversible, like more sanctions and economic pressure, or irreversible, kinetic things — exploding things, for example. I don’t want to talk specifically about any particular meeting because I have to protect my source. I don’t know how many people were at the meeting, do you understand what I mean?


In the article, you wrote that, in early 2022, the CIA working group reported back to Sullivan’s interagency group and they said, “We have a way to blow up the pipelines.”


They did have a way. There were people there who understood what we call in America “mine warfare.” In the United States Navy, there are groups that go into submarines — there’s also one command about nuclear engineering — and there is a mining command. Underground mining is very important, and we have skilled miners. Probably the most important place for training miners is in this little resort town called Panama City in the middle of nowhere in Florida.

We train very good people there and we use them. Miners are very important. You get clogged entries into ports; they can blow up things in the way. If we don’t like a certain country’s underwater pipelines for oil, we can blow them up too. It’s not always good things they do but they’re very secretive. For the group at the White House, it was clear they could blow up the pipelines. There’s an explosive called C-4, which is incredibly powerful, devastating particularly with the amount they use. You can control and operate it remotely with underwater sonar devices. They send very low-frequency signals.

So it was possible, and they told the White House that, by early January, because two or three weeks later, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said we can do it. I think this was January 20. And then the president as well, with Olaf Scholz, said on February 7 that we could do it. Scholz said nothing specific; he was vague. But a question that I would ask Scholz, if I had a parliamentary hearing, is this: Did President Biden tell you about this? Did he tell you at that time why he was so confident he could blow it up?

We didn’t have a plan yet, but we knew we had the capability to do it.

Gas emanates from the damaged Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea, September 28, 2022. (Swedish Coast Guard via Getty Images)


What role did Norway play in the operation?


Well, Norway is a great seaman nation, and they have underground energy. They’re also very anxious to increase the amount of natural gas they can sell to Western Europe and Germany. And they have done that, they’ve increased their export. So, for economic reasons, why not join with the United States? They also have a residual dislike of Russia.


In your article, you write that the Secret Service and the navy of Norway were involved, and you say that Sweden and Denmark were sort of briefed but not told everything.


The way it was put to me is: if you didn’t tell them, you didn’t need to tell them. In other words, you were doing what you were doing, and they knew what you were doing and they understood what was going on, but maybe nobody ever said yes. I worked on that issue very much with the people I was talking to. The bottom line is, to do this mission, the Norwegians had to find the right place. The divers that were being trained in Panama City could go to three hundred feet underwater without a heavy diving tank, only a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen and helium.

The Norwegians found us a place off Bornholm island in the Baltic that was only 260-feet deep so they could operate. They would have to return slowly. There was a decompression chamber, and we used the Norwegian submarine hunter. Only two divers were used for the four pipelines.

One problem was how to deal with those people who monitor the Baltic Sea. It is very thoroughly monitored, and there’s a great deal of openly available information, so we took care of this; there were three or four different people for that. And what we then did is really simple. Every summer for twenty-one years, our navy Sixth Fleet, which has control of the Mediterranean and also the Baltic Sea, has an exercise for NATO navies in the Baltic (BALTOPS). And we’d bring a navy carrier or large ships around. It was a very open thing. The Russians certainly knew about it. We did publicity. And in this one, for the first time in history, the Baltic Sea NATO operation had a new program. It was going to have an exercise in dropping mines and finding mines for ten or twelve days.

Several nations sent out mining teams, and one group would drop the mine and another mining group from their country would go hunt and blow it up. So you had a period where there are things blowing up, and in that time the Norwegians could recover deep-sea divers. The two pipelines run about a mile apart; they’re under the dirt a little but they’re not hard to get to, and they had practiced this. It didn’t take more than a few hours to plant the bombs.


So this was in June 2022?


Yes, they did it around ten days into June, at the end of the exercise, but at the last minute the White House got nervous. The president said he’s afraid of doing it. He changed his mind and gave them the order that he wanted the right to bomb anytime, to set the bombs off anytime remotely by us. You do it with just a regular sonar, actually a Raytheon build. You fly over and drop a cylinder down. It sends a low-frequency signal — you can describe it as a flute sound tone, you can make different frequencies. But the worry was that one of the bombs, if left in the water too long, would not work, and two did not — they only got three of the four pipelines. So there was a panic inside the group to find the right means, and we actually had to go to other intelligence agencies that I didn’t write about.I don’t think that Blinken and some others in the administration are deep thinkers.


And so what happened then? They placed it, they found a way to control it remotely . . .


Joe Biden decided not to blow them up. It was in early June, five months into the war, but then, in September, he decided to do it.

I’ll tell you something. The operational people, the people who do kinetic things for the United States, they do what the president says, and they initially thought this was a useful weapon that he could use in negotiations.

But at some point, once the Russians went in, and then when the operation was done, this became increasingly odious to the people who did it. These are well-trained people; they are in the highest level of secret intelligence agencies. They turned on the project. They thought this was an insane thing to do. And within a week, or three or four days after the bombing, after they did what they were ordered to, there was a lot of anger and hostility. This is obviously reflected in the fact that I’m learning so much about it.

And I’ll tell you something else. The people in America and Europe who build pipelines know what happened. I’m telling you something important. The people who own companies that build pipelines know the story. I didn’t get the story from them but I learned quickly they know.


Let’s go back to this situation in June last year. President Joe Biden decided not to do it directly and postponed it. So why did they do it then in September?


The secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, said a few days after the pipeline was blown up, at a news conference, that a major economic and almost military force was taken away from Vladimir Putin. He said this was a tremendous opportunity, as Russia could no longer weaponize the pipelines — meaning that it was not able to force Western Europe not to support the United States in the war. The fear was that Western Europe would not go along any longer in the war. I think that the reason they decided to do it then was that the war wasn’t going well for the West, and they were afraid with winter coming. The Nord Stream 2 has been sanctioned by Germany, and the United States was afraid that Germany would lift the sanctions because of a bad winter.


According to you, what were the motives when you look behind the scenes? The US government was opposed to the pipeline for many reasons. Some say they were opposed to it because they wanted to weaken Russia, to weaken the ties between Russia and Western Europe, Germany especially. But maybe also to weaken the German economy, which, after all, is a competitor to the US economy. With the high gas prices, enterprises have started to move to the United States. So what’s your sense of the motives of the US government, if they blew up the pipeline?


I don’t think they thought it through. I know this sounds strange. I don’t think that Blinken and some others in the administration are deep thinkers. There certainly are people in the American economy who like the idea of us being more competitive. We’re selling LNG, liquefied gas, at extremely big profits; we’re making a lot of money on it. I’m sure there were some people thinking, boy, this is going to be a long-time boost for the American economy.

But in that White House, I think the obsession was always reelection, and they wanted to win the war, they wanted to get a victory, they want Ukraine to somehow magically win.

There could be some people who think maybe it’ll be better for our economy if the German economy is weak, but that’s crazy thinking. I think, basically, that we’ve bitten deep into something that’s not going to work. The war is not going to turn out well for this government.


How do you think this war could end?


It doesn’t matter what I think. What I know is there’s no way this war is going to turn out the way we want, and I don’t know what we’re going to do as we go further down the line. It scares me if the president was willing to do this.

And the people who did this mission believed that the president did realize what he was doing to the people of Germany, that he was punishing them for a war that wasn’t going well. And in the long run, this is going to be very detrimental not only to his reputation as the president but politically too. It’s going to be a stigma for America.

So what you have is a White House that thought it may have a losing card: Germany and Western Europe may stop giving the arms we want and the German chancellor could turn the pipeline on — that was always a fear. I would be asking a lot of questions to Chancellor Scholz. I would ask him what he learned in February when he was with the president. The operation was a big secret, and the president wasn’t supposed to tell anybody about this capability. But he does talk. He says things that he doesn’t want to.


Your story was reported in Western media with some restraint and criticism. Some attacked your reputation or said that you have only one anonymous source, and that’s not reliable.


How could I possibly talk about a source? I’ve written many stories based on unnamed sources. If I named somebody, they’d be fired, or, worse, jailed. The law is so strict. I’ve never had anybody exposed, and of course when I write I say, as I did in this article, it’s a source, period. And over the years, the stories I’ve written have always been accepted. I have used for this story the same caliber of skilled fact-checkers as had worked with me at the New Yorker magazine. Of course, there are many ways to verify obscure information told to me.

And, you know, a personal attack on me doesn’t get to the point. The point is that Biden chose to keep Germany cold this winter. The president of the United States would rather see Germany cold [because of energy shortages] than Germany possibly not supportive in the Ukraine war, and that, to me, is going to be a devastating thing for this White House. For me, and I think also for the people on the mission, it was appalling.


The point is also that it can be perceived as an act of war not only against Russia but against Western allies, especially Germany.


Let’s keep it simple. I can tell you that the people involved in the operation saw the president as choosing to keep Germany cold for his short-range political goals, and that horrified them. I’m talking about American people that are intensely loyal to the United States. In the CIA, it’s understood that, as I put it in my article, they work for the Crown, they don’t work for the Constitution.

The one virtue of the CIA is that a president, who can’t get his agenda through Congress and nobody listens to him, can take a walk in the backyard of the Rose Garden of the White House with the CIA director and somebody can get hurt eight thousand miles away. That’s always been the selling point of the CIA, which I have problems with. But even that community is appalled that he chose to keep Europe cold in support of a war that he’s not going to win. And that, to me, is heinous.


You said in your article that the planning of the attack was not reported to Congress, as is necessary with other covert operations.


It also wasn’t reported to many places inside the military. There were other people in other institutions that should have known but were not informed. The operation was very secret.


There was some critique of your article by people who are engaged in evaluating open-source intelligence (OSINT) on ships and airplanes in the Baltic Sea region, saying that no Norwegian plane was detected directly at the spot of the explosions on September 26 or the days before.


Any serious covert operation takes OSINT into account and works around it. As I said, there were people on the mission who took care of this issue.


What role does courage play for you in your profession?


What’s courageous about telling the truth? Our job isn’t to be afraid. And sometimes it gets ugly. There have been times in my life, when — you know, I don’t talk about it. Threats aren’t made to people like me; they’re made to children of people like me. There’s been awful stuff. But you don’t worry about it — you can’t. You have to just do what you do.

Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize–winning American investigative journalist.

Fabian Scheidler is a Berlin-based journalist and the author of The End of the Megamachine: A Brief History of a Failing Civilization.

NATO arms transfers to Ukraine risk nuclear nightmare / by Scott Ritter

A soldier walks past a line of M1 Abrams tanks at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs | Photo by Christian Murdock

Posted to Canadian Dimension on January 27, 2023

The West’s recent approval of more military assistance for Kyiv could lead to rapid and irreversible escalation.

Early on the morning of May 2, 1945, General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, accepted the surrender of the German garrison of Berlin.

Two days prior, soldiers from the 150th Rifle Division, part of the Soviet 5th Shock Army, had raised the victory banner of the Red Army over the Reichstag. An hour after the banner went up, Adolf Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, committed suicide in his study inside the Furhrerbunker.

Chuikov, the hero of Stalingrad whose battered 62nd Army was renamed the 8th Guards Army in honor of their victory in holding that city in the face of a massive German onslaught, had led his troops into the heart of the Nazi capital, battling stubborn Nazi resistance in the Tiergarten district of Berlin, where the den of the Nazi beast was located. The Soviet general was rewarded for the courage and sacrifice of his soldiers by being in position to accept the German surrender.

In honour of this accomplishment, and the sacrifice it entailed, the Soviet Army inaugurated, in November 1945, a commemorative monument along the Tiergarten. Constructed from red marble and granite stripped away from the ruins of Adolf Hitler’s Neue Reichskanzlei (New Imperial Chancellery), the monument, consisting of a concave colonnade of six joined axes flanked by Red Army artillery and a pair of T-34 tanks, with a giant bronze statue of a victorious Red Army soldier standing watch from the center pylon.

From 1945 until 1993, when the Russian Army withdrew from Berlin, Soviet guards stood guard over the monument. Since that time, the monument has been maintained according to the terms of the German Reunification Treaty of 1990, which brought West and East Germany together in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Carved into the granite of the monument, in Cyrillic letters, is an inscription that reads “Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in battle with the German fascist occupiers for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union.”

In a turn of events which must have Vasily Chuikov and the Soviet heroes to whom the Tiergarten war memorial was dedicated turning in their graves, the forces of fascism have once again reared their odious heads, this time manifested in a Ukrainian government motivated by the neo-Nazi ultra-nationalistic ideology of Stepan Bandera and his ilk.

Bandera and his murderous movement had been physically defeated by Soviet forces in the decade following the end of the Second World War. However, its ideology survived in a western Ukrainian diaspora formed from the survivors of that movement who found safe haven in West Germany (where Bandera himself settled until assassinated by the Soviet KGB in 1959); Canada (where Chrystia Freeland, the granddaughter of a former publisher of pro-Bandera propaganda, currently serves as deputy prime minister), and the United States (where the followers of Bandera have constructed a “heroes park” outside Ellenville, New York, including a bust of Bandera and other neo-Nazi Ukrainian ultra-nationalists).

The ideology also survived in the shadows of the western Ukrainian districts that had been absorbed by the Soviet Union following the dismemberment of Poland in 1939, and later, after the reoccupation of these territories by Soviet forces in 1945.

CIA-funded political underground

Here, beginning in 1956 (following the de-Stalinization policies instituted by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the aftermath of his “secret speech” to members of the Communist Party), thousands of members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN-B), who had been arrested and convicted by Soviet authorities, were released from the Gulag and returned to their homes, ostensibly to be reintegrated into Soviet society. This reintegration never materialized, however.

Instead, Ukrainian fascists, funded by the CIA, operated as a political underground, running sabotage operations and fomenting anti-Soviet ideology amongst a population where the precepts of Ukrainian nationalist ideology ran strong.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the end of 1991, these Ukrainian nationalists emerged from the shadows and began organizing into political parties backed by gangs of violence-prone extremists who promulgated, through physical intimidation, a cult of personality built around Bandera.

Political parties such as Svoboda (“Freedom”) and Right Sector came into being. Although lacking support among the majority of the Ukrainian population, these groups were able to leverage their penchant for organization and violence into a dominant role in the riots that broke out in Maidan Square in Kyiv, in early 2014, that led to the ouster of democratically-elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych and his replacement by a government of figures hand-picked by the United States, including the future prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

An intercepted phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, which took place in the days prior to the ouster of Yanukovych in February 2014, had Nuland positioning Yatsenyuk as the future leader of Ukraine and, in this context, was actively encouraging Yatsenyuk to coordinate with Oleh Tyahnybok, the head of Svoboda, who was being openly backed by armed radicals from the Right Sector.

The close coordination between the new post-Maidan government of Ukraine and the pro-Bandera Svoboda and Right Sector political parties manifested in these organizations having an oversized role in Ukrainian security affairs.

By way of example, Dmytro Yarosh, the former head of Right Sector, became an adviser to the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi. In that role, Yarosh oversaw the incorporation of numerous volunteer units of the Right Sector into the regular armed forces of Ukraine.

One of the units created because of this reorganization is the 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which since November 2022 has been undergoing training in the United Kingdom.

The fact that NATO members, such as the United Kingdom, are actively involved in the training of Ukrainian forces is well-established. In July 2022 the British Defense Ministry announced that it would begin training approximately 10,000 Ukrainian troops every four months.

That they are playing an active role in providing combat training to ardent neo-Nazi military formations is something Western media outlets appear to eschew.

Protesters with the OUN-B’s red and black flag among Maidan Square protesters in Kyiv, December 2013 | Photo: Nessa Gnatoush/Wikimedia
Ukraine defense contact group

The issue, however, is far more complex⁠—and controversial⁠—than simply providing basic military training to a few thousand adherents of Bandera’s hate-filled ideology.

The 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade is likely to be one of three Ukrainian brigade-sized formations that will be trained and equipped using billions of dollars of military assistance recently approved during the eighth session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The contact group was first convened at the sprawling US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, in April 2022, and has served as the primary mechanism of coordination between the armed forces of Ukraine and NATO regarding the provision of training and material support to the Ukrainian military.

The most recent convocation of the Ramstein Contact Group took place in the shadow of an interview given by the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, to The Economist, in December 2022. According to Zaluzhnyi, the primary problem facing Ukraine was the need “to hold this line [i.e., the Soledar-Bakhmut defensive belt] and not lose any more ground.”

Since that interview, Soledar has fallen to the Russians, and Bakhmut is threatened with being surrounded. Moreover, Russian forces are on the offensive north and south of the Bakhmut front, in some instances advancing up to seven kilometers per day.

Zaluzhnyi also stated that the second priority for Ukraine was:

to get ready for this war which can happen in February [2023]. To be able to wage a war with fresh forces and reserves. Our troops are all tied up in battles now, they are bleeding. They are bleeding and are being held together solely by courage, heroism, and the ability of their commanders to keep the situation under control.

The Ukrainian commander noted that the February “war” would have Ukraine resuming the attack:

We have made all the calculations—how many tanks, artillery we need and so on and so on. This is what everyone needs to concentrate on right now. May the soldiers in the trenches forgive me, it’s more important to focus on the accumulation of resources right now for the more protracted and heavier battles that may begin next year.

The goal of this offensive, Zaluzhnyi said, was to push Russia back to the borders that existed on February 23, 2022, the start of the Russian invasion. He also indicated that the liberation of Crimea was an objective.

“In order to reach the borders of Crimea, as of today we need to cover a distance of 84 kilometres to Melitopol [a strategic city in the south of the Donetsk Republic]. By the way, this is enough for us, because Melitopol would give us a full fire control of the land corridor, because from Melitopol we can already fire at the Crimean Isthmus.”

Zaluzhnyi exuded confidence. “I know that I can beat this enemy,” he said. “But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFV’s [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers. Then, I think it is completely realistic to get to the lines of February 23.”

Zaluzhnyi spoke of an upcoming meeting with US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I will tell him [Milley] how much it is worth, how much it costs. If we don’t get it, of course we will fight to the end. But as a movie character said, ‘I don’t vouch for the consequences.’ The consequences are not hard to foresee. This is what we have to do.”

In short, Zaluzhnyi was saying he could win the war with Russia if he received the requested amount of military equipment. Otherwise, Ukraine would likely lose the conflict.

The eighth session

The eighth session of the Ramstein Contact Group convened on January 20 and the Ukrainians pressed hard for their Western allies to provide the material support Zaluzhnyi had requested.

Defense ministers from more than 50 countries participated, including Ukraine’s Oleksii Reznikov who, speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum a few days before the Ramstein meeting, declared that “We [Ukraine] are carrying out NATO’s mission today. They aren’t shedding their blood. We’re shedding ours. That’s why they’re required to supply us with weapons.”

The Contact Group took the Ukrainian demand for material support under consideration, and by the end of the meeting had committed to providing Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar support package, including air defense weapons, artillery ammunition, support vehicle, and (perhaps most importantly) approximately 240 of the 500 infantry fighting vehicles it had requested, broken down roughly into one battalion (59 vehicles) of US-made M-2 Bradleys, two battalions (90 vehicles) of M-1126s, one battalion (40 vehicles) of German Marders and one battalion (approximately 50 vehicles) of Swedish-made CV90s.

The Ramstein Contact Group also promised delivery of four self-propelled artillery battalions, consisting of 19 Swedish-made Archer’s, 18 British-made AS-90’s, 18 US-made M-109 Paladin’s, and a dozen French-made CEASAR’s. When added to the 24 towed FH-70 pieces, the total of artillery pieces being sent to Ukraine amounts to just under 100 artillery pieces, a far cry from the 500 requested by Zaluzhnyi.

Missing from the Ramstein Contact Group list was anything remotely resembling the 300 tanks Zaluzhnyi had requested; the best Ukraine’s European allies could muster [until Tuesday] was a promise from the United Kingdom to supply a company’s worth (14) of Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

Zaluzhnyi, in his interview with The Economist, had indicated that he could not accomplish his planned offensive with anything less than the three armored and three mechanized brigade-equivalents he had requested.

The collective West had responded with barely two brigade’s worth of equipment.

These two, when added to a third mechanized brigade that had previously been formed and was undergoing training in Poland, gave the Ukrainian general half of what he claimed he needed to launch a successful offensive against Russia.

For US General Milley, the equipment shortfall wasn’t the issue⁠—training was. Prior to arriving at Ramstein, Milley toured the sprawling Grafenwoehr training grounds in Germany. There the US Army is in the process of training some 600 Ukrainian soldiers to effectively move and coordinate their company-and battalion-size units in battle, using combined artillery, armor and ground forces.

Speaking to reporters, General Milley said such training was critical in helping Ukraine recapture territory lost to Russia last year. The goal of this training, Milley said, is for incoming weapons and equipment to be delivered to Ukraine so the newly trained forces will be able to use it “sometime before the spring rains show up. That would be ideal.”

Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, right, with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, September 8, 2022. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/US Department of Defense/Flickr.
What the West is giving

Operational training, no matter how competently delivered and absorbed, does not paint an accurate picture of the true combat capability being turned over to Ukraine by the West. The reality is most of this equipment won’t last a month under combat conditions; even if the Russians don’t destroy them, maintenance issues will.

Take, for instance, the 59 M-2 Bradley vehicles being supplied by the United States. According to anecdotal information obtained from Reddit, the Bradley is, to quote, “a maintenance NIGHTMARE.”

“I can’t even begin to commiserate how f***ing awful maintenance on a Bradley is,” the author, a self-described US Army veteran who served in a Bradley unit in Iraq, declared.

Two experienced crews MIGHT be able to change one Brad’s track in 3 or 4 hours, if nothing goes wrong (something always goes wrong). Then you got the track adjuster arms, the shock arms, the roadwheels, the sprocket itself, that all need maintained and replaced as needed. I haven’t even started talking about the engine/transmission pack yet. When you do services on that, it’s not like you just raise the engine deck lid. You got to take the armor OFF the Bradley so an M88 Wrecker vehicle can use its crane to LIFT the engine/tranny out of the hull.

The Stryker isn’t any better. According to a recent article in Responsible Statecraft, US soldiers who used the vehicle in both Iraq and Afghanistan called the Stryker “a very good combat vehicle, so long as it traveled on roads, it wasn’t raining⁠—and didn’t have to fight.”

The Stryker is also a difficult system to maintain properly. One of the critical features of the Stryker is the “height management system,” or HMS. In short, it is what keeps the hull from riding on the tires. A failure to constantly maintain and monitor the HMS system will result in the hull rubbing up against the tires, causing tire failure and a non-operable vehicle.

The HMS is complex, and a failure to maintain or operate one component will result in the failure of the entire system. The likelihood of the future Ukrainian operators of the Stryker properly maintaining the HMS under combat conditions is near-zero—they will lack the training as well as the “logistical support” necessary (such as spare parts).

The German Marder IFV appears to represent a similar maintenance headache for the Ukrainians: according to a 2021 article in The National Interest, “The vehicle was considered unreliable from the outset: Tracks rapidly wore out, transmissions often failed, and soldiers could not easily remove the vehicle’s engine for field maintenance.”

While Germany is preparing to invest a significant amount of money to upgrade the Marder, this hasn’t yet been done. Ukraine is inheriting an old weapons system that brings with it a considerable maintenance problem Ukraine is not prepared to properly handle.

The Swedish CV 90 saw some limited combat in Afghanistan when deployed with the Norwegian Army. While there is not enough publicly available data about the maintainability of this system, one only needs to note that even if the SV 90 proves easy to maintain, it represents a completely different maintenance problem from that of the Bradly, Stryker, or Marder.

In short, to properly operate the five battalion-equivalents of infantry fighting vehicles being supplied their NATO partners, Ukraine will need to train its maintenance troops on four completely different systems, each with its own unique set of problems and separate logistical/spare part support requirements.

It is, literally, a logistical nightmare that will ultimately prove to be the Achilles heel of the Ramstein tranche of heavy equipment.

But even here, neither NATO nor Ukraine seems able to see the forest for the trees. Rather than acknowledging that the material being provided is inadequate to the task of empowering Ukraine to carry out large-scale offensive operations against Russia, the two sides began haranguing each other over the issue of tanks, namely the failure of Germany to step up to the plate in Ramstein and clear the way for the provision to Ukraine of hundreds of modern Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

German history and optics

The Ramstein meeting was hampered by concern within the German Parliament over the optics associated with Germany providing tanks which would be used to fight Russians in Ukraine.

This angst was perhaps best captured by Petr Bystron of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party. “German tanks [fighting] against Russia in Ukraine,” Bystron challenged his colleagues, “remember, your grandfathers tried to do the same trick, together with [Ukrainian nationalists] Melnik, Bandera and their supporters.

“The result was immense suffering, millions of casualties on both sides and, eventually, Russian tanks came here, to Berlin. Two of those tanks remain on permanent display nearby, and you must keep this in mind when you pass them by every morning,” Bystron said, referring to the two Soviet T-34 tanks at the Tiergarten memorial to fallen Soviet soldiers.

The issue of Leopard tanks, however, was more political than technical, with Poland threatening to ignore Germany’s refusal to allow the tanks to be sent to Ukraine, announcing that it was prepared to dispatch 14 of its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in the near future. When combined with the 14 Challenger 2 tanks being promised by the British, Ukraine was getting 28 of the 300 tanks it said it needed for any future offensive (now roughly 58 with the US Abrams).

The numerical disparities and maintenance difficulties aside, NATO politicians seem quite pleased with what was accomplished at Ramstein. According to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, in an address to Parliament:

The international community recognizes that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is as important as equipping them to defend what they already have. Today’s package is an important increase in Ukraine’s capabilities. It means they can go from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil.

Wallace seems to ignore that by empowering Ukraine to expel Russian troops from what are⁠—following the annexation of the four former Ukrainian territories (Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson) last September⁠—permanently part of the Russian Federation, NATO would be potentially creating the conditions under which Russia would be able to doctrinally employ nuclear weapons. Those conditions would be to defend against the accumulation of conventional military power capable of threatening the existential survival of Russia.

Russia, however, has not ignored this. Speaking after the Ramstein Contact Group finished its meeting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “Potentially, this is extremely dangerous, it will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security.”

Senior Russian officials chimed in on social media. Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, declared on his Telegram channel that:

It should be clear for everyone⁠—we will destroy any weapons supplied to the Zelensky’s regime by either the United States or NATO. That is true now as it was true during the Great Patriotic War. The emergence of tanks, bearing Nazi insignia, on the former Soviet soil unequivocally makes us aim at toppling the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine and creating normal conditions so that the neighboring peoples in the region could live peacefully like in the old days.

Dmitri Medvedev, a former Russian president and close adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, added on Twitter that those who promote a Russian defeat risk unleashing global ruin. “None of them gets it that a nuclear power’s loss of a conventional war can lead to a nuclear one. Nuclear powers haven’t been defeated in major conflicts crucial for their destiny.”

The consequences for Ukraine

The reality is, however, that the consequences of the Ramstein Contact Group’s work will be far more detrimental to Ukraine than Russia.

Under pressure from the West to carry out a major offensive designed to expel Russian forces from the territories captured last year, General Zaluzhnyi will be compelled to sacrifice whatever reserves he would be able to assemble in the aftermath of Ramstein for the purpose of engaging in fruitless attacks against a Russian opponent that is far different from the one Ukraine faced in September and October of last year.

Then, a reconstituted Ukrainian army, bolstered by tens of billions of dollars of NATO equipment, training and operational support, was able to take advantage of over-extended Russian forces to recapture large swaths of territory in Kharkov and Kherson.

Today, Russia’s military presence in Ukraine is a far cry from what it was in the autumn of 2022. In the aftermath of Putin’s September 2022 decision to mobilize 300,000 reservists, Russia has not only consolidated the frontline in eastern Ukraine, assuming a more defensible posture, but also reinforced its forces with some 80,000 mobilized troops, allowing for Russia to sustain offensive operations in the Donetsk regions while solidifying its defenses in Kherson and Luhansk.

From February 24 through the autumn of 2022, Russia deviated significantly from how it doctrinally prosecutes armed conflict. Moving forward, Russia will be waging war by the book. Defensive positions will be laid in a manner designed to defeat concerted NATO attack, both in terms of troop density along the frontline, but also in depth (something lacking in the Kharkov offensive in September 2022) and with sufficient dedicated fire support (again, lacking in September 2022).

By General Zaluzhnyi’s own admission, Ukraine has insufficient forces for the task. Even if Ukraine were able to concentrate all three brigades’ worth of men and material that are in the pipeline following the Ramstein Contact Group meeting at one place at the same time, the 20,000 or so troops this represents would be unable to breach a Russian defensive position laid out in doctrinal fashion.

Ukraine and NATO should heed the history lesson that Petr Bystron presented to his fellow German parliamentarians—German tanks do not historically fare well against Russian tanks on Ukrainian soil.

And Ben Wallace and Mark Milley should pay attention to the order of battle of the Russian forces opposing the Ukrainian Army, especially around the critical battlefields in and around the strategic city of Bakhmut. There, Russian soldiers belonging to the 8th Guards Army are poised to continue in the tradition of Vasily Chuikov’s heroes of Stalingrad and Berlin, destroying the forces of fascism on the field of battle.

While the modern-day soldiers of the 8th Guards Army may not be mounting a new generation of tanks on display in the Berlin Tiergarten, rest assured they know fully well their historical legacy and what is expected of them.

This, more than anything else, is the true expression of the Ramstein effect, a cause-effect relationship that the West does not seem either able or willing to discern before it is too late for the tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers whose lives are about to be sacrificed on an altar of national hubris and ignorance.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Canadian Dimension.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

This article originally appeared on

Birthday Celebration – “Fidel is a country, is this people.” / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Credit: rebelió

Many people here in Maine have traveled to Cuba. Together with our Cuba solidarity group Let Cuba Live, some of them celebrate on August 13. That’s today; it’s the 96th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s birth. But we hear you saying: “isn’t a social revolution supposed be to something collective and not a cult of personality?”

True, we would reply, revolutions do need masses of people who, amid hardship and oppression, have visions of decent lives and can come together. But revolutions are not spontaneous. There is a place for leaders, someone like Fidel Castro. Just as with Jose Martí, Cuba’s great leader in an earlier era, Fidel Castro communicated goals and hope and offered strategic insight and plans. So it’s OK.

Some reflections on this anniversary date make the point. In her article appearing August 13 on cubadebate.orgDaily Sánchez Lemus claims that, “Fidel is a country, is this people, who see in him the architect of their highest dreams.” She asks, “How can we explain what it meant [for him] to be close to the humblest people, to feel them, interpret them and share the same fate?”.

She cites a long letter Fidel wrote on July 21, 1957 to Frank País, his martyred young comrade based in Santiago de Cuba in the early days of the Revolution. She states that Castro’s “concept of people” is displayed there. At that time Castro and his band of guerrilla insurgents, were fighting in the Sierra Maestro mountains. Castro writes:

“Now I do know what a people is: I see it in that invincible force that surrounds us everywhere. I see it in those caravans of thirty and forty men, with torches for light, going down muddy slopes, at two and three in the morning, with seventy pounds of weight on their shoulders, bringing supplies for us.

Where did they come from? Who organized them so marvelously? Where did they get so much skill, so much cunning, so much courage, so much self-sacrifice? Nobody knows! … They organize themselves, spontaneously! When the animals get tired and lie down on the ground, unable to keep on, men appear everywhere and bring the stuff along. [Deadly] force can’t do anything against them. They would have to kill them all, down to the last peasant, and that’s impossible. No tyranny can do that and the people realize it, and are more and more aware of their immense strength.”

From Spain’s Basque region, Paco Azanza Telletxikiwrote in 2008 about Fidel Castro’s decision then not to seek Cuba’s presidency. He cites Haydée Santamaría’s remarks spoken at the University of Havana in 1967. That hero of Cuba’s Revolution declared that, “for me, being a communist is not being a member of a party: for me, being a communist is having an attitude towards life. Fidel is a communist with an attitude; he is more than a Party member. Fidel is the unequivocable communist who is so scarce today and who is needed to bring to fruition the just causes of the whole world.

She adds that, “In the 80’s Fidel commented that if one day the USSR disappeared and Cuba was alone, Cuba would still be socialist. Then came 1991, and the Soviet Union collapsed. When that happened, many “friends” of Cuba disappeared. In this new and complicated situation, the color red was fading. The reds of some countries faded little by little; others, devoid of shame, did so quickly. …Fidel and his Revolution continued walking along the same ideological path as always, flying the same flag.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania jail, in 2008 also weighed in on Fidel Castro’s withdrawal from political life.  In his commentsMumia Abu-Jamal points out that:

“Fidel’s nearly 50 years as Cuba’s head of state have had a far-reaching impact not only in Cuba, but in Latin America, and beyond. … Latin America, in large part due to Cuba’s strong and tenacious example, has distanced itself from the draconian governments of U.S.-supported generals and is opting for democratic governments and populist leftists.

“In the field of education, Cuba’s achievements have been exemplary. In Central and South America, the average literacy rate is 86.4 percent. Cuba’s average literacy rate is 98 percent …

“Under its socialist system, education in Cuba is free. Indeed, Cuba is the school of choice for thousands of students from all over the world, especially in higher education and medicine. …  In fact, in 1961 more than one million Cubans (mostly from rural areas of the nation) were illiterate. More than 100,000 children over the age of 10 voluntarily participated in “literacy brigades” and spread throughout the country to teach the poor and peasants to read and write …

“In foreign affairs, Cuba brought its considerable military power to the fore in the struggle against South Africa’s racist apartheid system. Cuba, supporting the Angolan armed forces, …caus[ed] such losses to the South African army that it ushered in a long road of negotiations, compromise, and [eventually] the dissolution of apartheid.”

Lastly, Patricio Montecinos offers reflections that appear today on

These days Cubans are paying special tributer to the historical leader of their Revolution, Fidel Castro. They speak of him with a mixture of admiration, respect, and longing, but for them, he is always present, even now when, physically, he is gone.

For millions of admirers on the island, Fidel – the Commander in Chief, as they always will always call him – lives on, inside all of them.  He is there in every part of the Island where he used to show up to plant ideas and hopes, and listen to his people.

Most Cubans have an anecdote they tell of their maximum leader and guide, and now on his 96th birthday celebration, this August 13, they are proud to have him with them in their various activities. Many say they still talk with Fidel, ask his advice and help with their personal decisions. Sometimes, one hears them saying this in tears, as if he were their closest and most beloved family member

He is the man the CIA tried to assassinate more that 600 times and that successive U.S. administrations tried to being down but couldn’t do so. He is present in every moment of happiness and victory for Cubans and there too in moments of adversity and sadness.

The leader of Cuba’s Revolution of January 1, 1959 is with his people always, and will be for generations, including people who never knew him.  For most young people and children, he is a guardian angel and the idol of the island that deserves the name “island of dignity.” 

Fidel is also remembered on every continent. He always extended hands of solidarity to the dispossessed peoples of this world, and never asked for anything in exchange. He taught his compatriots to continue on that path and always lend a hand to anyone who needs help.

W. T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

How Global McCarthyism Shaped the World / by Peter Hogart

Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party (Pemuda Rakjat) are watched by soldiers in Jakarta during attacks on communists in 1965. (Photo: AP)

This article was originally published in Orinoco Tribune .

Military coups are a CIA tool used to control the Global South and ensure U.S. hegemony in many parts of the world.

As debates rage about  the origins of the conflict in Ukraine, calls for no-fly zones and sending arms to fight back against the attacks from Russia, there is intense discussion about the role and nature of NATO and the level of US responsibility for the bloody events that have captivated and horrified people around the world. It feels like the politics of the Cold War loom large. Vincent Bevins’ book The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped our World helps inform our understanding of that period and is a valuable resource for those struggling with questions of international political economy today.

During the Cold War there was a movement of “Third World nations,” developing outside the direct influence of both the US and the USSR. But as these newly independent countries tried to forge their own political and economic path after throwing off the burden of colonial rule, the US’ Central Intelligence Agency intervened to disrupt them. Bevins puts into stark detail how the CIA dedicated itself to training and funding generals to overthrow, imprison, mutilate and murder anyone who advocated even the mildest of economic reforms in their own countries.

The rise of Global McCarthyism

After the end of World War II, the US emerged as the new dominant capitalist power and it quickly turned to consolidating and extending that power, trying to contain and counter the appeal of the USSR and Communism. For example, the US intervened in elections in France and Italy, funneling money to parties it approved of and fueling anti-left propaganda. As the divisions of the Iron Curtain around the USSR became more clear, the US turned its attention to influencing the future of the Third World. Stepping up to this challenge was the CIA, which became the name for the US’ dedicated spy service. Formed in 1946, the agency had the dual role of intelligence gathering and actively intervening around the world to shape it in the US’ interest.

In 1948, Indonesia emerged from a war for independence from Dutch colonialism, newly formed and independent. With Sukarno as its leader, the new country looked to be both anti-colonial and anti-communist. Sukarno came to symbolise the potential independent, neutrality of Third World Nations. The US was initially cautiously optimistic, adopting the “Jakarta Axiom,” meaning a tolerance for neutral Third World nations.

However, by 1953 the Jakarta Axiom came to an end. Neutral Third World nations attempted to control their own resources or pass modest laws on land reform. But CIA moved into action, pouring millions into orchestrating coups in Iran and Guatemala. The new consensus under President Dwight D. Eisenhower was that “neutral governments were potential enemies, and Washington could decide if and when an independent Third World nation was sufficiently anticommunist.”

The term “Third World” really came to prominence in 1955, when Sukarno and Ghanian president Kwame Nkrumah helped organize the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. The conference put forward a different kind of nationalism, based on anti-colonial struggle, attempting to organize Third World Nations to collectively work together for better terms within the global economic system to help foster their own development. More than 29 countries took part, organizations and communication networks sprang up with criticism of the global capitalist system. While these nations tried to forge a path outside of Washington or Moscow, and even tried to pay homage to the American Revolution in its speeches and communications, the entire conference was viewed as an offense to the US State Department and neutrality viewed as a crime against America. As Bevins explained, “Anyone who wasn’t actively against the Soviet Union must be against the United States, no matter how loudly he praised Paul Revere.”

The US saw Asia pivotal to countering the influence of the USSR and poured millions into the elections in Indonesia, but Sukarno’s Indonesian National Party and even the Communist Party (PKI) still did well. The well-organized PKI’s electoral success was frustrating to Washington, and Sukarno’s tolerance and good relationship with the PKI and other left wing parties increased Washington’s suspicion. The CIA dropped bombs, and helped fund and stoke rebellions against Sukarno in some of the outer islands. The plot failed, the military put down the rebellions, and the discovery of direct US involvement disillusioned Sukarno and pushed him further away from Washington.

New tactics: military coups

The US perspective for shaping the Third World changed after this. The CIA began to focus on supporting the “military as a more effective, long-term anticommunist strategy.” Bevins documents the way in which this strategy was used to great effect in Brazil.

The military proved to be the most reliable anti-communist force and during the 1950s and 1960s. Brazil’s military deepened ties with Washington, training at Fort Leavenworth alongside soldiers from Indonesia. Far-right groups were formed and received funding from the CIA, carried out bombings, shootings and other forms of intimidation against the presidency of the liberal reformer, João Goulart. Jango, as he was known, who had sided with the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was deemed a threat to world capitalism for proposing to extend voting rights to all Brazilians, rolling out a literacy program and a modest program of land reform. This independent course was punished by a US capital strike, economic sabotage, and the funding, training and secret support of a group within the military. This all eventually led to a coup on March 31, 1964 in which “the US State Department made tankers, ammunition and aircraft carriers available to the conspirators.”

The coup was successful and it represented a great achievement for the CIA’s new tactics:

“In Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), Indonesia (1958) and Cuba (1961), anyone who was paying attention knew that Washington had been behind the regime change operations. These very obvious signs of US intervention had not only tainted Washington’s image worldwide–they undermined the efficacy of the states they installed when they were victorious. Guatemala’s government fell apart quickly after the CIA-backed coup, as did the Shah’s government in Iran, eventually.” These new clandestine tactics were replicated to devastating effect in Indonesia.

The Jakarta method

In Indonesia, the US and British governments, not happy with President Sukarno’s national independence amidst escalation of the war in Vietnam, stepped up their secret activities in the country. The extent of these operations are still hidden, making it hard to know just what kind of black operations and secret warfare they were engaged in. What we do know is that a midlevel group of Army officers opposed to a military coup, calling themselves the September 30th Movement, launched an attempt to arrest a group of seven Army generals, ending in the deaths of these generals. It’s unclear whether this was a terribly bungled attempt by well-meaning officers loyal to Sukarno, the work of infiltration by anticommunist elements in the military, or a straight-up attempt to create an event that would allow for a seizure of power by the military. But after the deaths of those generals on October 1, 1965, “General Suharto seized control of the country, and told a set of deliberate, carefully prepared lies. These lies became official dogma in one of the world’s largest countries for decades.”

The military spread the story that the PKI was the mastermind of the “failed communist coup,” spreading lies that the generals were tortured in demonic rituals as women from the communist-aligned women’s movement danced naked around them before cutting off their genitals and murdering them. The US government quickly recognized Suharto as the leader and helped him spread the propaganda, while Western media outlets broadcast these lies back into the country. Communication from the US embassy in Indonesia to the US State Department on October 5 reveal that position of the US government: avoid overt involvement, indicate clearly to Suharto and the military that they want to provide assistance and support, increase contact with military, and spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality.

By October 7, military commanders were touring provinces, making it clear to civilians that they were expected to help violently repress communists or face arrest and death themselves. Party members, union members, and anyone even remotely related to left wing politics were arrested en masse, interrogated, tortured, raped, disappear. Religious youth organizations and other civilian organizations were recruited to do the killing in Central and East Java. Machetes (not native the region) began to appear in Bali in huge numbers at the exact same time as the military anti-communist campaigns.

By January of 1966, the outcome was clear. Excerpts from a US State Department memo paint a vivid picture:

“Prior to October 1, 1965, Indonesia was for all practical purposes an Asian communist state…events of the past several months have had three major effect on Indonesia’s power structures and policies: The PKI has ceased for the foreseeable future to be an important power element. Effective action by the Army and its Muslim allies has totally disrupted the party’s organizational apparatus. Most Politburo and Central Committee members have been killed or arrested, and estimates of the number of party members killed range up to several hundred thousand…”

Years afterwards, the role the US played became clear. Bevins summarizes:

“When the conflict came, and when the opportunity arose, the US government helped spread the propaganda that made the killing possible, and engaged in constant conversations with the Army to make sure the military officers had everything they needed, from weapons to kill lists. The US embassy constantly prodded the military to adopt a stronger position and take over government, knowing full well that the method being employed to make this possible was to round up hundreds of thousands of people around the country, stab or strangle them, and throw their corpses into rivers. The Indonesian military officers understood very well that the more people they killed, the weaker the left would be, and the happier Washington would be.”


This process was repeated around the world, wherever the US deemed it strategic. The word Jakarta became a code-word for mass murder and the phrase “Jakarta is coming” spray-painted as a threat to left wing activists. From 1945 to 1990, a loose-network of US-backed anticommunist mass murder programs emerged around the world and carried out campaigns in at least 23 countries. As Bevins’ notes in his conclusion:

“the extermination programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela and Vietnam should be seen as interconnected, and a crucial part of the US victory in the Cold War.”

These programs interrupted and reversed any independent political projects, halted development, paved the way for capitalist globalization (or as Bevins refers to it: “Americanization”), dismantled the Third World movement, created crony capitalist countries across the globe, and helped to establish a virulent anticommunist narrative that is quite clearly alive and well today. As well, the lessons learned by much of the International Left was that peaceful politics were impossible, transforming the global political landscape even further.

The Jakarta Method is an essential resource for making sense of the violent and unequal global political landscape that we find ourselves in today. Understanding the role of US imperialism and the extents it will go to can help situate us politically and must inform our strategy and tactics. Bevins’ book is a stirring call for the left to honour the dead, draw lessons from their experience, and fight like hell for the living.

Black Agenda Report, May 17, 2022,

The U.S. proxy war in Ukraine / by John Bellamy Foster

Olga Chernysheva (Russia) Kind People, 2004.

The following is the text of a presentation by John Bellamy Foster given on March 31, 2022 to the advisory board of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. —Eds

Thanks for inviting me to make this presentation. In talking about the Ukraine war, the essential thing to recognize at the outset is that this is a proxy war. In this regard, none other than Leon Panetta, who was CIA director and then secretary of defense under the Barack Obama administration, acknowledged recently that the war in Ukraine is a U.S. “proxy war,” though seldom admitted. To be explicit, the United States (backed by the whole of NATO) is in a long proxy war with Russia, with Ukraine as the battlefield. The U.S. role in this conception, as Panetta insisted, is to provide more and more weapons faster and faster with Ukraine doing the fighting, bolstered by foreign mercenaries.

So how did this proxy war come about? In order to understand that we have to look at the U.S. imperial grand strategy. Here we have to go back to 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved or even further to the 1980s. There are two prongs to this imperial grand strategy, one as geopolitical expansion and positioning, including the enlargement of NATO, the other as the U.S. drive for nuclear primacy. A third prong involves the economy but won’t be considered here.

The First Prong: Geopolitical Expansion

The first prong was enunciated in Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Policy Guideline for the United States in February 1992, just months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The grand imperial strategy adopted at the time and followed ever since had to do with the United States advancing geopolitically into the terrain of the former Soviet Union as well as what had been the Soviet sphere of influence. The idea was to prevent Russia from reemerging as a great power. This process of U.S./NATO geopolitical expansion commenced immediately, visible in all the U.S./NATO wars in Asia, Africa, and Europe that have taken place in the last three decades. NATO’s war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s was particularly important in this respect. Even while the dismemberment of Yugoslavia was going on, the United States began the process of enlarging NATO by moving it further and further East to encompass all of the former Warsaw Pact countries as well as parts of the former USSR. Bill Clinton in his 1996 election campaign made the enlargement of NATO part of his platform. Washington started to implement that in 1997, eventually adding 15 additional countries to NATO doubling its size and creating a 30-nation Atlantic Alliance targeting Russia, while also giving NATO a more global interventionist role, as in Yugoslavia, Syria, and Libya.

But the goal was the Ukraine. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the most important strategist of all of this and had been Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor said in his 1997 Grand Chessboard that Ukraine was the “geopolitical pivot,” particularly in the West, which if it were brought into NATO and under Western control, would weaken Russia so much that it could be tethered, if not dismembered. This has been the goal all along and U.S. strategic planners and Washington officials, along with the NATO allies, have stated over and over that they wanted to bring the Ukraine into NATO. NATO made this goal official in 2008. Only a few months ago, in November 2021 in the new strategic charter between the Biden administration in Washington and Zelensky government in Kyiv, it was agreed that the immediate aim was bring Ukraine into NATO. But this has also been NATO’s policy for a long time now. The United States in the final months of 2021 and at the beginning of 2022 was moving very fast to militarize the Ukraine and accomplish that as a fait accompli.

The idea, articulated by Brzezinski and others, was that once the Ukraine was secured for NATO, Russia was finished, the proximity to Moscow with Ukraine as the thirty-first nation in the NATO alliance, would give NATO a 1200-mile border with Russia, the same path through which Hitler’s armies had invaded the Soviet Union, but in this case with Russia facing the world’s greatest nuclear alliance. This would change the entire geopolitical map giving the West control of Eurasia west of China.

How this actually played out is important. The proxy war started in 2014 when the Maidan coup, engineered by the United States took place in Ukraine, removing the democratically elected president, and putting ultra-nationalists largely in control, with U.S./NATO sponsorship. The immediate result though was that Ukraine began to break apart. Crimea had been an independent, autonomous state from 1991 to 1995. In 1995 Ukraine illegally tore up the Crimean Constitution and annexed it against its will. The Crimean people didn’t consider themselves part of Ukraine, and were largely Russian speaking, with deep cultural connections to Russia. When the coup occurred, with Ukrainian ultra-nationalists in control, the Crimean population wanted out. Russia gave them an opportunity with a referendum to stay in the Ukraine or join with Russia. They chose the latter. However, in the eastern Ukraine the primarily Russian population was subjected to repression by ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi Kyiv forces. Russophobia and extreme repression of the Russian-speaking populations in the East set in—with the infamous case of the forty people blown up in a public building by neo-Nazis associated with the Azov Battalion. Originally there were a number of breakaway republics. Two survived in the Donbass region, with dominant Russian-speaking populations: the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.

A civil war thus emerged in Ukraine between Kyiv in the West and Donbass in the East. But it was also a proxy war with the U.S./NATO supporting Kyiv and Russia supporting Donbass. The civil war started right after the coup, when the Russian language was basically outlawed, so that individuals could get fined for speaking Russian in a store. It was an attack on the Russian language and culture and a violent repression of the populations in the eastern parts of the Ukraine.

Initially, there were about 14,000 lives lost in the civil war. And these casualties were in the eastern part of the country, with something like 2.5 million refugees pouring into Russia. The Minsk Agreements in 2014 and 2015 led to a ceasefire, mediated by France and Germany, and supported by the United Nations Security Council. In these agreements the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics were given autonomous status within Ukraine. But Kyiv broke the Minsk agreements again and again, continuing to attack the breakaway republics in Donbass, though on a reduced scale, and the US continued to provide stepped-up military training and weapons.

Washington provided an enormous amount of military support to Kyiv between 1991 and 2021. The direct military aid to Kiev from the United States was $3.8 billion from 1991 to 2014. From 2014 to 2021, it was $2.4 billion, increasing in rate, and then finally skyrocketing once Joe Biden came into office Washington. The United States was militarizing the Ukraine very fast. The United Kingdom and the Canada trained around 50,000 Ukrainian troops, not counting those trained by the United States. The CIA actually trained the Azov Battalion and the rightwing paramilitaries. All of this was targeting Russia.

The Russians were concerned particularly about the nuclear aspect, since NATO is a nuclear alliance, and if Ukraine was brought into NATO and missiles were placed in Ukraine, a nuclear strike could occur before the Kremlin had time to respond. Already there are anti-ballistic missile defense facilities in Poland and Romania, crucial as counterforce weapons in a NATO first strike. Yet, it is important to understand that the Aegis missile defense systems placed there are also capable of launching nuclear offensive missiles. All of this factored into Russia’s entry into the Ukrainian civil war. In February 2022 Kyiv was preparing a major offensive, with 130,000 troops on the borders of Donbass in the East and South, with U.S./NATO, firing into Donbass, with continuing U.S./NATO support. This crossed Moscow’s clearly articulated red lines. In response, Russia first declared that the Minsk Agreements had failed and that the Donbass republics had to be regarded as independent and autonomous states. It then intervened in the Ukrainian civil war on the side of Donbass, and in line with what it considered its own national defense.

The result is a proxy war between the U.S./NATO and Russia being fought in Ukraine, developing out of a civil war in Ukraine itself, which had its inception in a U.S.-engineered coup. But unlike other proxy wars between capitalist states this one is occurring on the borders of one of the great nuclear powers and is brought on by the long-articulated grand imperial strategy in Washington aimed at capturing the Ukraine for NATO in order to destroy Russia as a great power, and establish, as Brzezinski stated, U.S. supremacy over the globe. Obviously, this particular proxy war carries grave dangers on a level not seen since the Cuban missile crisis. Following the Russian offensive, France declared that NATO was a nuclear power and immediately afterwards, on February 27, the Russians put their nuclear forces on high alert.

Another thing to understand about the proxy war is that the Russians have been trying to with considerable success to avoid civilian casualties. The populations of Russia and Ukraine are interwoven, and Moscow has attempted to keep civilian casualties down. Figures in the US military and in the European militaries have been indicating that the civilian casualties are remarkably low, when compared to the standard of U.S. warfare. One indication of this is that the military casualties to the Russian troops are greater than the civilian casualties of Ukrainians, which is the reverse of the way it works in U.S. warfare. If you look at how the United States fights a war, as in Iraq, it attacks the electrical and water facilities and the entire civilian infrastructure on the grounds that this will create dissension in the population and a revolt against the government. But targeting civilian infrastructure naturally increases civilian casualties, as in Iraq where the civilian casualties from the U.S. invasion were in the hundreds of thousands. Russia, in contrast, has not sought to destroy the civilian infrastructure, which it would be easy for them to do. Even in the midst of the war they are still selling natural gas to the Kyiv, fulfilling their contracts. They have not destroyed Ukraine’s Internet.

Russia intervened mainly with the object of freeing up Donbass, much of which was occupied by Kyiv forces. A priority has been gaining control of Mariupol, the main port, which would make Donbass viable. Mariupol has been occupied by the neo-Nazi Azov battalion. The Azov battalion now controls less than 20% of the city. They are hiding out in the old Soviet bunkers in part of the city. The Donetsk People’s Militia and the Russians control the rest of it. There are about 100,000 paramilitary forces in Ukraine. Most of the paramilitaries within the Ukrainian forces that constituted the larger part of the 130,000 troops that were surrounding Donbass, have now been cut off by the Russian military. Besides gaining control of Donbass together with the people’s militias, Moscow seeks to compel the Ukraine to demilitarize and to accept a neutral status, remaining outside of NATO.

If you look at the situation from the standpoint of the peace agreements—and the Global Times had a good report on it on March 31—you can see what the war is all about. Kyiv has provisionally agreed to neutrality, to be overseen by certain guarantors from the West, such as Canada. But the sticking point in the negotiations is what Kyiv calls “sovereignty.” That is all about Donbass and the civil war. Ukraine insists that Donbass is part of its sovereign territory, irrespective of the wishes of the population in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The people in the Donbass republics and the Russians can’t accept that. In fact, the peoples’ militias and the Russians are still working at liberating parts of Donbass that are occupied by these paramilitary forces. It is there that the main sticking point in the negotiations lies, and this goes back to the reality of the civil war in Ukraine. The U.S. role in this has been to operate as a spoiler in the negotiations.

The Second Prong: The Drive to Nuclear Primacy

Here it is necessary to turn to the second prong of the U.S. Imperial Strategy. So far, I have discussed the grand imperial strategy in terms of geopolitics, the expansion into the territory of the former Soviet Union and the Soviet sphere of influence, which was articulated most effectively by Brzezinski. But there’s another prong to the U.S. grand imperial strategy that needs to be discussed in this context, and that is the drive to new nuclear primacy. If you read Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, his book on U.S. geopolitical strategy, you won’t find a word on nuclear weapons. The word nuclear doesn’t appear at all in his book, I believe. Yet this is of course crucial to the overall U.S. strategy with respect to Russia. In 1979, under Jimmy Carter, while Brzezinski was his national security advisor, it was decided to move beyond Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and for the United States to pursue a counterforce strategy of nuclear primacy. This involved placing nuclear missiles in Europe. In his “Letter to Americans,” which appears in Protest and Survive published by Monthly Review Press in 1981, Marxist historian and anti-nuclear activist E.P. Thompson actually quotes Brzezinski admitting that the U.S. strategy had shifted to a counterforce war.

To explain this, it is necessary to go back a little bit further. By the 1960s, the Soviet Union had achieved nuclear parity with the United States. There was a big debate within the Pentagon and security establishment about this, because nuclear parity meant MAD. It meant Mutually Assured Destruction. And whichever nation, it didn’t matter which, attacked the other, both would be utterly destroyed. Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense, started promoting the notion of counterforce to get around MAD. Essentially, there are two types of nuclear attacks. One is a countervalue which targets the cities, the population, and the economy of the adversary. That’s what MAD is based on. The other kind of attack is a counterforce war aimed at destroying the enemy’s nuclear forces before they can be launched. And, of course, a counterforce strategy is the same thing as a first strike strategy. The United States under McNamara, started to explore counterforce. McNamara then decided was such an approach was insane, and he decided to make MAD the deterrence policy of the United States. That lasted through most of the 1960s and seventies. But in 1979, in the Carter administration, when Brzezinski was the national security adviser, they decided to implement a counterforce strategy. The United States at that time decided to locate Pershing II missiles and nuclear-armed cruise missiles in Europe. That led to the rise of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, the great European peace movement.

Washington initially put Pershing II intermediate nuclear missiles, as well as cruise missiles, in Europe. This became a huge issue for the peace movement in both Europe and the United States. The dangers of a nuclear war were enormously enhanced. The Ronald Reagan administration heavily promoted the counterforce strategy and added their sci-fi Strategic Defense Initiative (better known by its nickname of Star Wars), which envisioned a system that would shoot down all of the enemy missiles altogether. This was largely a fantasy. Eventually, the nuclear arms race in this period was stopped as a result of the massive peace movements in Europe on both sides of the Berlin Wall and the nuclear freeze movement in the United States, as well as the rise of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. But after the dissolution of the USSR, Washington decided to go forward with the counterforce strategy, its drive towards nuclear primacy.

Over the next three decades, Washington kept on developing counterforce weapons and strategies, enhancing US abilities in that respect, to the point that in 2006 it was declared that the United States was near nuclear primacy, as explained at the time in Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the main center for U.S. grand strategy. The Foreign Affairs article declared that China didn’t have a nuclear deterrent against a U.S. first strike, given the improvements in U.S. targeting and sensing technology, and that even the Russians couldn’t count on the survivability their nuclear deterrent anymore. Washington was pushing forward to achieve complete nuclear primacy. This went hand in hand with the enlargement of NATO in Europe because part of the counterforce strategy was to get counterforce weapons closer and closer to Russia to decrease the time with which Moscow could respond.

Russia was the primary target in the strategy. While China was clearly intended to be the later target.  But Trump coming in decided to pursue detente with Russia and concentrate on China. That threw things off for a while, destabilizing the U.S./NATO grand strategy since the enlargement of NATO was an essential part of the nuclear primacy strategy. Once the Biden administration came into office, attempts were made to make up for lost time in tightening the Ukraine noose in Russia.

In all of this, the Russians, now a capitalist state and regaining great power status, were not fooled. They saw this coming. In 2007 Vladimir Putin declared that the unipolar world was impossible, that the United States wouldn’t be able to achieve nuclear primacy. Both Russia and China started to develop weapons that would get around the counterforce, strategy of the United States. The idea of a first strike is that the attacker—and only the United States has anything near this capability—strikes the land-based missiles, whether in hardened silos or mobile, and by tracking the submarines is in a position to eliminate them as well. The role of anti-ballistic missile systems is then to pick off whatever retaliatory strike remains. Naturally, the other side, namely Russia and China among the great nuclear powers, know all of this, so they do everything they can to protect their nuclear deterrent or retaliatory strike capability. In the last few years Russia and China developed hypersonic missiles. These missiles move extraordinarily fast, above Mach 5 and at the same time are maneuverable, so they cannot be stopped by anti-ballistic missile systems, weakening the U.S. counterforce capability. The United States itself has not yet developed hypersonic missile technologies of this kind. This type of weapon is what China calls an “assassin’s mace,” meaning that it can be used by a lesser power to counter an overwhelming advantage in the military power of the opponent. This then increases the basic deterrent of Russia and China by protecting their retaliatory capabilities in the event of a first strike against them. It is one of the major factors that that is countering U.S. first strike capabilities.

Another aspect in this game of nuclear chicken is the U.S./NATO dominance in satellites. It is largely because of this that Pentagon targeting is now so accurate that they can conceive of the possibility of destroying the hardened missile silos with smaller warheads because of the absolute accuracy of their targeting, while also targeting submarines. All of this has to do with the satellite systems. This gives the United States, it is widely believed, the capability of destroying hardened missile silos or at least command and control centers with weapons that aren’t nuclear, or with smaller nuclear warheads, because of the increased accuracy. The Russian and Chinese militaries have been focusing therefore a lot on anti-satellite weapons in order to take this advantage away.

Nuclear Winter and Omnicide

All of this may sound bad enough, but it is necessary to say something about nuclear winter. The U.S. military—and I imagine it’s true of the Russian military as well—have, if you read their declassified documents, completely walked away from the science on nuclear war. In the declassified document on nuclear armaments and nuclear war there is no mention of firestorms anywhere in the discussion of nuclear war. But firestorms are actually what result in the largest number of deaths in a nuclear attack. The firestorms can spread out in a thermonuclear attack on a city to as much as 150 square miles. The military establishments, which are all about fighting and prevailing in a nuclear war, leave the firestorms out of account in their analyses even in calculations of MAD. But there is another reason for this as well since the firestorms are what generate nuclear winter.

In 1983, when counterforce when weapons were being placed in Europe, Soviet and American atmospheric scientists, working together, created the first models of nuclear winter. A number of the key scientists, in both the Soviet Union and the United States, were involved in climate change research, which is essentially the inverse of nuclear winter, though not nearly as abrupt. These scientists discovered that in a nuclear war with firestorms in 100 cities, the effect would be a drop in an average global temperature by what Carl Sagan said at the time was up to “several tens of degrees” Celsius. They later backed off from that with further studies and said it was that the drop would be up to twenty degrees Celsius. But you can imagine what that means. The firestorms would loft the soot and the smoke into the stratosphere. This would block to 70% of the solar energy reaching the earth, which would mean all harvests on Earth would end. This would destroy nearly all vegetative life, so that the direct nuclear effects in the northern hemisphere would be accompanied by the death of almost everyone in the southern hemisphere as well. Only a few people would survive on the planet.

The nuclear winters studies were criticized by the military and by the establishment in the United States, as exaggerated. But in the 21st century, beginning in 2007, the nuclear winter studies were expanded, replicated, and validated numerous times. They showed that even in a war between India and Pakistan using Hiroshima-level atomic bombs, the result would a nuclear winter not as severe, but with the effect of reducing the solar energy reaching the planet enough to kill billions of people. In contrast, in a global thermonuclear war, as the news studies have shown, nuclear winter would be even would be as bad or worse as what the original studies in 1980s had determined. And this is the science. It’s accepted in the top peer-reviewed scientific publications and the findings have been repeatedly validated. It is very clear in terms of the science that if we have a global thermonuclear exchange, it will kill off the entire population of the earth with maybe a few remnants of the human species surviving somewhere in the southern hemisphere. The result will be planetary omnicide

At first McNamara thought that counterforce was a good idea, because it was seen as a No Cities strategy. The United States could just destroy the nuclear weapons on the other side and leave the cities untouched. But that quickly dissolved, and nobody believes that anymore because most the command-and-control centers are in or near the cities. There’s no way that these can all be destroyed in a first strike without attacking the cities. Moreover, there’s no way that the nuclear deterrent on the other side can be completely destroyed, where the major nuclear powers are concerned, and only a relatively small part of the nuclear arsenals of the major powers can destroy all the major cities on the other side. To think otherwise is to pursue a dangerous fantasy that increases the chance of a global thermonuclear war that will destroy humanity. This means that the major nuclear analysts, who are deeply engaged in counterforce doctrines, are promoting total madness. The nuclear war planners pretend that they can prevail in a nuclear war. Yet, we now know that MAD, mutually assured destruction, as it was originally envisioned, is less extreme than what a global thermonuclear war means today. Mutually assured destruction meant both sides were destroyed in their hundreds of millions. But nuclear winter means virtually the entire population of the planet is eliminated.

Counterforce strategy, the drive towards first strike capability or nuclear primacy means that the nuclear arms race keeps on increasing in the hope of eluding MAD, while actually threatening human extinction. Even if the numbers of nuclear weapons are limited, nuclear weapons, the so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal, particularly on the U.S. side, is designed to make counterforce and thus a first strike thinkable. That’s why Washington withdrew from the nuclear treaties like the ABM Treaty and the intermediate-range nuclear missile treaty. These were seen as blocking counterforce weapons, interfering with the Pentagon’s drive to nuclear primacy. Washington walked out of all of those treaties and then while it was willing to accept a limit on the total number of nuclear weapons because the game was then being played in a different way. The U.S. strategy is focused on counterforce not countervalue now.

All of this is a lot to be absorbed in a short time. But I think it’s important to understand the two prongs of the U.S./NATO imperial grand strategy in order to understand why the Kremlin considers itself threatened, and why it acted as it did, and why this proxy war is so dangerous for the world as a whole. What we should keep in mind right now is that all of this maneuvering for absolute world supremacy has brought to us to the brink of a global thermonuclear war and global omnicide. The only answer is to create a massive world movement for peace, ecology, and socialism.

About John Bellamy Foster

John Bellamy Foster, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, is editor of Monthly Review, an independent socialist magazine published monthly in New York City. His research is devoted to critical inquiries into theory and history, focusing primarily on the economic, political and ecological contradictions of capitalism, but also encompassing the wider realm of social theory as a whole. He has published numerous articles and books focusing on the political economy of capitalism and the economic crisis, ecology and the ecological crisis, and Marxist theory: (with Paul Burkett) Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique (2016); The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (New Edition, 2014); (with Robert W. McChesney) The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China (2012); (with Fred Magdoff) What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism: A Citizen’s Guide to Capitalism and the Environment (2011); (with Brett Clark and Richard York) The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (2009); (with Fred Magdoff) The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (2009); The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet (2009); (with Brett Clark and Richard York) Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present (2008); Ecology Against Capitalism (2002); Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000); (with Frederick H. Buttel and Fred Magdoff) Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment (2000); The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment (1999); (with Ellen Meiksins Wood and Robert W. McChesney) Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution (1998); (with Ellen Meiksins Wood) In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda (1997); The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (1986); (with Henryk Szlajfer) The Faltering Economy: The Problem of Accumulation Under Monopoly Capitalism (1984). His work is published in at least twenty-five languages. Visit for a collection of most of Foster’s works currently available online.

MR Online, April 9, 2022,