‘Not a Justification but a Provocation’: Chomsky on the Root Causes of the Russia Ukraine War / by Ramzy Baroud

Photograph Source: Cityswift – CC BY 2.0

One of the reasons that Russian media has been completely blocked in the West, along with the unprecedented control and censorship over the Ukraine war narrative, is the fact that western governments simply do not want their public to know that the world is vastly changing.

Ignorance might be bliss, arguably in some situations, but not in this case. Here, ignorance can be catastrophic as western audiences are denied access to information about a critical situation that is affecting them in profound ways and will most certainly impact the world’s geopolitics for generations to come.

The growing inflation, an imminent global recession, a festering refugee crisis, a deepening food shortage crisis and much more are the kinds of challenges that require open and transparent discussions regarding the situation in Ukraine, the NATO-Russia rivalry and the responsibility of the West in the ongoing war.

To discuss these issues, along with the missing context of the Russia-Ukraine war, we spoke with Professor Noam Chomsky, believed to be the greatest living intellectual of our time.

Chomsky told us that it “should be clear that the (Russian) invasion of Ukraine has no (moral) justification.” He compared it to the US invasion of Iraq, seeing it as an example of “supreme international crime.” With this moral question settled, Chomsky believes that the main ‘background’ of this war, a factor that is missing in mainstream media coverage, is “NATO expansion”.

“This is not just my opinion,” said Chomsky, “it is the opinion of every high-level US official in the diplomatic services who has any familiarity with Russia and Eastern Europe. This goes back to George Kennan and, in the 1990s, Reagan’s ambassador Jack Matlock, including the current director of the CIA; in fact, just everybody who knows anything has been warning Washington that it is reckless and provocative to ignore Russia’s very clear and explicit red lines. That goes way before (Vladimir) Putin, it has nothing to do with him; (Mikhail) Gorbachev, all said the same thing. Ukraine and Georgia cannot join NATO, this is the geostrategic heartland of Russia.”

Though various US administrations acknowledged and, to some extent, respected the Russian red lines, the Bill Clinton Administration did not. According to Chomsky, “George H. W. Bush … made an explicit promise to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany, perfectly explicit. You can look up the documents. It’s very clear. Bush lived up to it. But when Clinton came along, he started violating it. And he gave reasons. He explained that he had to do it for domestic political reasons. He had to get the Polish vote, the ethnic vote. So, he would let the so-called Visegrad countries into NATO. Russia accepted it, didn’t like it but accepted it.”

“The second George Bush,” Chomsky argued, “just threw the door wide open. In fact, even invited Ukraine to join over, despite the objections of everyone in the top diplomatic service, apart from his own little clique, Cheney, Rumsfeld (among others). But France and Germany vetoed it.”

However, that was hardly the end of the discussion. Ukraine’s NATO membership remained on the agenda because of intense pressures from Washington.

“Starting in 2014, after the Maidan uprising, the United States began openly, not secretly, moving to integrate Ukraine into the NATO military command, sending heavy armaments and joining military exercises, military training and it was not a secret. They boasted about it,” Chomsky said.

What is interesting is that current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “was elected on a peace platform, to implement what was called Minsk Two, some kind of autonomy for the eastern region. He tried to implement it. He was warned by right-wing militias that if he persisted, they’d kill him. Well, he didn’t get any support from the United States. If the United States had supported him, he could have continued, we might have avoided all of this. The United States was committed to the integration of Ukraine within NATO.”

The Joe Biden Administration carried on with the policy of NATO expansion. “Just before the invasion,” said Chomsky, “Biden … produced a joint statement … calling for expanding these efforts of integration. That’s part of what was called an ‘enhanced program’ leading to the mission of NATO. In November, it was moved forward to a charter, signed by the Secretary of State.”

Soon after the war, “the United States Department acknowledged that they had not taken Russian security concerns into consideration in any discussions with Russia. The question of NATO, they would not discuss. Well, all of that is provocation. Not a justification but a provocation and it’s quite interesting that in American discourse, it is almost obligatory to refer to the invasion as the ‘unprovoked invasion of Ukraine’. Look it up on Google, you will find hundreds of thousands of hits.”

Chomsky continued, “Of course, it was provoked. Otherwise, they wouldn’t refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion. By now, censorship in the United States has reached such a level beyond anything in my lifetime. Such a level that you are not permitted to read the Russian position. Literally. Americans are not allowed to know what the Russians are saying. Except, selected things. So, if Putin makes a speech to Russians with all kinds of outlandish claims about Peter the Great and so on, then, you see it on the front pages. If the Russians make an offer for a negotiation, you can’t find it. That’s suppressed. You’re not allowed to know what they are saying. I have never seen a level of censorship like this.”

Regarding his views of the possible future scenarios, Chomsky said that “the war will end, either through diplomacy or not. That’s just logic. Well, if diplomacy has a meaning, it means both sides can tolerate it. They don’t like it, but they can tolerate it. They don’t get anything they want, they get something. That’s diplomacy. If you reject diplomacy, you are saying: ‘Let the war go on with all of its horrors, with all the destruction of Ukraine, and let’s let it go on until we get what we want.’”

By ‘we’, Chomsky was referring to Washington, which simply wants to “harm Russia so severely that it will never be able to undertake actions like this again. Well, what does that mean? It’s impossible to achieve. So, it means, let’s continue the war until Ukraine is devastated. That’s US policy.”

Most of this is not obvious to western audiences simply because rational voices are “not allowed to talk” and because “rationality is not permitted. This is a level of hysteria that I have never seen, even during the Second World War, which I am old enough to remember very well.”

While an alternative understanding of the devastating war in Ukraine is disallowed, the West continues to offer no serious answers or achievable goals, leaving Ukraine devastated and the root causes of the problem in place. “That’s US policy”, indeed.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Counterpunch, June 28, 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/

US Armament Spree in Ukraine is Last Ditch Effort to Preserve Washington’s Dominance, Scholar Says / Ekaterina Blinova

© AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky

The US has sent billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Ukraine amid Russia’s special operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify the country. Switchblade killer drones are part of an additional $800 million military aid package announced by Washington on 16 March. Who is benefitting from the armament spree?

“One reason for the continued transfer of weapons from NATO nations to Ukraine is to keep the profits of the military industrial complex flowing”, says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. “The US will ‘replace’ these weapons to the particular donor country by either charging them for new military equipment or having the US taxpayers pay the bill. Either way, the weapons industry profits big time”.

Western defence and cybersecurity stocks began to climb at the end of February as Washington and its NATO allies vowed to step up weapons supplies to Ukraine after the beginning of the Russian special operation, according to Gagnon.

The stocks made substantial progress in slightly over a week and are continuing to rally. Thus, between 24 February and 4 March, defence stocks broadly soared, with shares of Raytheon Technologies rising nearly 8%, General Dynamics 12%, Huntington Ingalls Industries 14%, Lockheed Martin 18%, and Northrop Grumman 22%, according to Fortune. Gagnon notes that Lockheed Martin currently tops the list, followed by other corporations like General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and BAE.

However, even before the Russian operation, major US defence contractors started to benefit from Ukraine, with the Biden administration having increased lethal aid to the Eastern European country since the beginning of his presidency. “In his first year in office, Biden approved more military aid to Ukraine — some $650 million — than the US had ever provided”, The Intercept remarked on 10 March.

The US weapons supplies to Ukraine soared substantially in the second half of 2021 amid the Ukrainian military buildup along the contact line with the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. On 9 March, the Russian Ministry of Defence released secret documents of the command of the National Guard of Ukraine, confirming preparation by Kiev authorities for an offensive operation in Donbass in March 2022.

The US defence contractors are the major beneficiaries of US-NATO warmongering, according to Gagnon.

“All of these weapons corporations have huge numbers of lobbyists who daily walk the halls of Congress”, the scholar says. “They also make sure to give Congress members (from both parties) generous campaign donations. So, essentially, the war machine has the political system tightly under their control. During the Iraq War, one Bush administration agent stated during a presentation that the US role under corporate globalisation of the world economy would be ‘security export’. That means endless war.”

‘Overextending and Unbalancing Russia’

Ukraine has long been in the focus of US politicians and the military industrial complex, according to the scholar. Gagnon cites a 2019 RAND Corporation study entitled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia”, co-authored by ex-State Department and White House adviser James Dobbins and military intelligence branched lieutenant colonel and Iraq War veteran, Raphael Cohen. “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability”, the study emphasised.

“It appears obvious to me that the US is using Ukraine as a tool to destabilise Russia’s borderlands and thus forcing Moscow to spend more on the military which takes away from domestic priorities”, says Gagnon. “Western sanctions being placed on Russia is even more evidence of this US-NATO plan to ‘Overextend and Unbalance’ Russia. The US-NATO wants regime change in Moscow. Washington and the EU don’t give a damn about the people in Ukraine.”

According to The Intercept, the Obama administration provided a wide range of “nonlethal military and intelligence assistance” to Ukraine, including training, while under Donald Trump, “Washington began a relatively modest flow of weapons shipments”. Under Biden, arms supplies to Ukraine have already become “unprecedented”, according to the media outlet.

Furthermore, the US political class and defence contractors have become intertwined through Washington’s “revolving door” politics, notes Gagnon.

“The swinging door between the weapons industry and staff positions inside military and foreign policy institutions is strong evidence of this reality”, he says. “There is no democracy in the US. WWII Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini defines fascism as ‘the wedding of corporations and government’. This is exactly what we have in the US today – and throughout much of Europe as well.”

West’s ‘Achilles Heel’

Ironically, it is Joe Biden who declared an end to “an era of major military operations to remake other countries” following the US’ hasty Afghanistan withdrawal, and stressed that the president’s job is to protect and defend the “fundamental national security interest of the United States of America”. According to Gagnon, Washington’s Ukraine armament spree is caused by the US’ unwillingness to completely lose its fading unipolar leadership.

“The US and NATO fear the coming multi-polar world being led by Russia and China”, says the scholar. “Washington, and its puppet allies in Europe, understand that their ‘window of opportunity’ to destroy Russia and China is closing – thus their desperation. The recent threat by the Biden administration to China (that if Beijing did not renounce Russia it would get sanctioned as well) reveals just how much this new growing economic detachment from Western control is driving US-NATO policy.”

However, firm rejection of anti-Russian sanctions by nations throughout the Global South indicates that the West’s efforts “will not be successful”, says the scholar. The Wall Street Journal’s recent report saying that Saudi Arabia is considering selling some oil to China using yuan instead of the “petro-dollar” shows the demise of the Western-centric world order, according to Gagnon.

“The West’s arrogance, greed and sense of exceptionalism are their Achilles’ heel”, the scholar concludes.

SPUTNIK International, March 22, 2022, https://sputniknews.com/