By Bruce Katz – Feb 23, 2022
There has been a great deal of Russophobic and Sinophobic frenzy of late in our so-called mainstream media and on the part of politicians in Washington, Canada, the UK and Germany. What are the underlying reasons for this? Is it true that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is “imminent”?
A closer look at what lies concealed in the panoply of attacks against China and more specifically against Russia demonstrates that there are both economic and strategic reasons for Washington‘s (and its allies) attempts to reign in Russian influence in Europe. Let us begin with a bit of history.
The Crimea—a part of Russia from 1783 onward subsequent to the decline of Ottoman power—was handed to the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic by the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 following the death of Joseph Stalin. The action was an administrative decision on the part of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The transfer of the Crimean government apparatus to Ukraine has been described as a symbolic gesture marking the 300th anniversary of the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav. The transfer increased the ethnic Russian population of Ukraine by almost a million people. Although Russia recognized Ukraine’s borders by way of a 1997 treaty which established Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea, the constitutionality of the transfer has been questioned by some Russian authorities.
It was obvious that the question of Crimea, Russia’s historical claim on the area and the strategic importance of Crimea for the security of Russia’s borders (especially access to Sevastopol which is the only port with waters deep enough to hold the Russian fleet, which allows Russia to protect its flank in the Black Sea) would become a flashpoint.
The West’s (NATO) military build-up in Eastern Europe has followed on the heels of a coup-d’état in Kyiv. In 2014, the right-wing nationalist movement EuroMaidan overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych, who sought to strike a balance between the European Union and Russia. US/NATO geo-strategic interests meant driving a wedge between Europe and Russia. Victoria Nuland—appointed to the US State Department by Barack Obama subsequent to his election win—had a principal role in orchestrating the coup d’état in Ukraine.
The ongoing presence of Nuland in the Biden administration sent a clear signal to Russia that any meaningful improvement in diplomatic relations between Russia and the US had been shelved.
The US-backed coup divided Ukraine politically, geographically and linguistically (Russian is the native language of 30% of Ukrainians and 75% of those in eastern Ukraine). After Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia beefed up its military presence in the southern region of Crimea, then held a referendum on secession. Home to Moscow’s main naval base at Sevastopol in the Black Sea, as mentioned above, Crimea had long been part of Russia and most of the population preferred the government in Moscow to the right-wing nationalist post-coup government in Kyiv.
The largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine protested the ousting of Yanukovych, a native of the region. After a referendum and armed conflict, the people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk were proclaimed in the Donbass region on the border with Russia. Moscow helped the movement but for strategic reasons did not absorb the newly proclaimed republics into Russia.
Canada’s involvement in the coup d’etat
Although our media unceasingly points to Russian bellicosity in Ukraine, little attention is paid to the role of Canada or the United States in stoking tensions there. In July 2015, the CBC reported that opposition protesters had camped at the Canadian Embassy for a week during the February 2014 rebellion against Yanukovych.
Support for the Ukrainian government was part and parcel of Canada’s role in the Western-backed “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe, which were largely aimed at weakening Russian influence in the region. An in-depth Globe and Mail article entitled “Agent Orange: Our Secret Role in Ukraine” written by Mark MacKinnon and published on April 18, 2007 detailed some of the ways Canada intervened in the 2004-2005 Ukrainian elections. It is worth quoting MacKinnon’s article at length to give the reader an idea of the degree of the Canadian Embassy’s clandestine intervention in Ukrainian politics on behalf of Western interests:
All told, the embassy spent a half-million dollars promoting “fair elections” in a country that shares no border with Canada and is a negligible trading partner. And Mr. Robinson acknowledges the effort helped the pro-Western Mr. Yushchenko to prevail over Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich.
The United States also played a leading role, as it came to see the Ukrainian election standoff as a major battle in a new cold war that it was fighting with a resurgent Kremlin for influence across Moscow’s old empire. The Bush administration was particularly keen to see a pro-Western figure as president to ensure control over a key pipeline running from Odessa on the Black Sea to Brody on the Polish border. . .
Even though U.S. investment in the uprising eventually surpassed Canada’s, Mr. Robinson says the Canadian role “was really quite significant and deserves to be known.”
Beginning in January, 2004—soon after the success of the Rose Revolution in Georgia—he began to organize secret monthly meetings of Western ambassadors, presiding over what he called “donor co-ordination” sessions among 28 countries interested in seeing Mr. Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control.
Canada also invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups, that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich had won. Thirty months later, Razumkov director Yuriy Yakimenko maintains the poll was impartial and scientific—but also boasts that it brought Yushchenko supporters into the streets.
Moreover, from 2014 to 2019 Canada’s Global Affairs department gave a plethora of grants to various Ukrainian organizations in Kyiv. The total sum adds up to millions, confirming special considerations bestowed on Ukraine by Global Affairs Canada, and confirming the continuity of the policy undertaken by Andrew Robinson and the Canadian Embassy in Ukraine. There have also been an important number of special projects for Ukraine set up by the Canadian government including such projects as Building Capacity of Electoral Actors in Ukraine ($4,500,000) begun in March 2014 and ended in February 2018; Canada-International Monetary Fund Technical Assistance – Ukraine ($20,000,000) begun in March 2014 and ended in March 2021; Capacity Development Support for Integrated Mine Action in Eastern Ukraine ($1,600,000) begun in March 2020, ending in March 2022.
From this perspective, one better understands the presence of Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Chrystia Freeland in the Trudeau government. It is Freeland—Trudeau’s Deputy Prime Minister—who has been given free reign over the Trudeau government’s policy on Ukraine and Russia. It is no surprise that upon being named Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2015 that the US State Department crowed that “Canada had adopted an ‘America first foreign policy.” In other words, the role of Chrystia Freeland as the agent of Washington/NATO long-term strategy to circumvent Russian influence in Europe within the Canadian government is no accident. She plays the same role that Victoria Nuland plays within the US State Department regarding policy on Russia.
The Trudeau government’s present foreign policy regarding Russia runs along the lines set in 2004 by the government of Paul Martin and followed by the Harper government. Hence, what we are dealing with here is quite simply foreign policy set in Washington and applied via NATO. Justin Trudeau is but the third in a series of pro-imperialist agents set on blocking Russian influence in Europe, more specifically blocking the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline connection to Germany and preventing Russian trade relations with the European Union.
Every step taken by Washington/NATO, every declaration made by the latter, continues to be parroted by the Trudeau government. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, has once again ratcheted up the threat of new sanctions against Russia. Canada carries little weight in diplomatic circles so the threat by the Trudeau government could be likened to the mouse that roared. Canada has imposed sanctions on Russia since 2014. These have had little if any effect. What is more, “despite current sanctions, trade between Canada and Russia has continued. In 2020, Canada received more than $1 billion in imports from Russia and delivered more than $600 million in exports, according to data from the International Trade Centre.”
That trade will continue despite Joly’s brave words. Dollars and cents (and common “sense”) carry the day. Canada will not sacrifice exports to Russia in order to placate Washington/NATO’s agenda, no matter what drivel is spewed forth from Ottawa regarding the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The crisis which has been sponsored not by Russia but by Western interests, if continued, threatens to further raise the price of commodities in the midst of what is becoming hyper-inflation. [As EnergyNow writes:]
Sanctions could lead to shortages of food and energy, causing prices of both to soar, Bloomberg Intelligence said recently. Capital Economics said the biggest impact is likely to come through commodity prices, and a worst-case scenario could see oil reach $120 to $140 and gas jump higher, adding about 2 percentage points to headline inflation in advanced economies this year.
How would Trudeau and company like to undertake the next election—perhaps 12 to 18 months down the road—with a two-dollar a litre price at the gas pump and rocketing prices on food commodities? In the end, economic reality will triumph over idle political chatter from NATO lackeys in Ottawa.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline
What is perhaps the most transparent example of US/NATO strategy in corralling Russian influence and trade in Europe is the attempt to block Germany from authorizing the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which would provide Germany with much needed fuel for heating during the winter. Angela Merkel had given in to pressure from then US president Donald Trump in agreeing to build a LNG (liquefied natural gas) port near Hamburg, which would have made Germany more dependent on highly-priced gas from the US. Both leaders, however, were defeated in subsequent elections, scuttling the proposed deal. What needs to be understood is that Trump was simply putting forward Washington’s long-standing resolve to “own” the European continent. The policy does not change, regardless of the administration in power in Washington.
The US arm-twisting of Germany points to its policy to block the Russian pipeline to Germany by using the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The fact of the matter is that Germany is heavily dependent on Russian gas to heat its homes and businesses in winter. The thought was that it could simply not refuse to accept Russian gas in order to suit Washington’s hegemonic plans for the regions. However, on February 22, Germany confirmed that it will suspend the certification for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
In reality, some European countries are vexed by the US/NATO aggressive rhetoric, France being a prime example. French president Emmanuel Macron seeks a European security structure that is more independent of the US/NATO. Macron’s Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, said the European position on the Ukraine issue is not dependent on the US but rather on dialogue. Le Maire is on record as stating: “The Europeans . . . have an independent position on Ukraine and different interests from the Americans. And it needs to be made clear to our American allies that we have different interests in this crisis. Our goal is not threats, not confrontation, but dialogue and de-escalation.”
Jean-Luc Melenchon, a French presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in France, has stated point blank that it is NATO and not Russia that is stoking tensions in Europe over the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Melenchon is the founder of the French democratic socialist party, La France Insoumise. In a televised interview on the France 2 network Melenchon stated that, “The United States of America has decided to annex Ukraine to NATO, and Russia feels humiliated, threatened, aggressed . . . . They want Ukraine to be pulled into NATO. We the French have no interest [in such plans], we don’t care about that.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with Vladimir Putin and called for more diplomatic efforts, stating moreover that “long-term security in Europe could only be achieved with Russia.” He subsequently reversed direction, stating that Russia represents a threat to European security. Evidently, Washington was displeased with Scholz’s previous statement.
On January 21, 2022, German Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach was in New Delhi, India, speaking at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses as the chief of Germany’s navy during his visit to the institute. Referring to Vladimir Putin, Schönbach said, “What he really wants is respect.” The next day, on January 22, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba summoned Germany’s ambassador to Ukraine, Anka Feldhusen, to Kyiv.(The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine summoned the Ambassador of Germany because of Berlin’s refusal to supply weapons – RIA Novosti, 22.01.2022). Kuleba noted the “categorical unacceptability of the statements of the Commander of the German Naval Forces Kai-Achim . . . . in particular, that Crimea will never return to Ukraine and that our state cannot meet the criteria for membership in NATO.”
Schönbach subsequently offered his resignation which was accepted forthwith. He was “excommunicated” because he had uttered the blasphemy that Crimea would stay with Russia and that Putin and Russia deserved respect.
This is where US/NATO’s geo-strategical use of Ukraine comes into play. In an important article written by Michael Hudson and entitled “America’s real adversaries are its European and other allies: The U.S. aim is to keep them from trading with China and Russia,” Hudson writes:
The only way left for U.S. diplomats to block European purchases is to goad Russia into a military response and then claim that avenging this response outweighs any purely national economic interest. As hawkish Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, explained in a State Department press briefing on January 27: “If Russia invades Ukraine one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” The problem is to create a suitably offensive incident and depict Russia as the aggressor.
Nuland expressed who was dictating the policies of NATO members succinctly in 2014: “Fuck the EU.” That was said as she told the US ambassador to Ukraine that the State Department was backing the puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Ukrainian prime minister (removed after two years in a corruption scandal), and US political agencies backed the bloody Maidan massacre that ushered in what are now eight years of civil war. The result devastated Ukraine much as US violence had done in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not a policy of world peace or democracy that European voters endorse.
In other words, there is no real threat of a Russian or Chinese invasion anywhere in Europe, including Ukraine. As Hudson contends, “the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.” Hudson goes on:
America’s rising pressure on its allies threatens to drive them out of the U.S. orbit. For over 75 years they had little practical alternative to U.S. hegemony. But that is now changing. America no longer has the monetary power and seemingly chronic trade and balance-of-payments surplus that enabled it to draw up the world’s trade and investment rules in 1944-45. The threat to U.S. dominance is that China, Russia and Mackinder’s Eurasian World Island heartland are offering better trade and investment opportunities than are available from the United States with its increasingly desperate demand for sacrifices from its NATO and other allies.
In a previous article published in The Canada Files, it was pointed out that Washington’s global strategy is bent on waging economic warfare against China’s global economic power such as evidenced in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and BRICS. That holds true for Latin America—no longer America’s “backyard”—as well as Asia, Africa and Europe . . . and specifically its anti-Russian campaign in Ukraine. The effect of US/NATO constraints and economic sanctions levied against its allies in the self-defeating attempt to curtail their trade relations with Russia and China hurt its allies more than they do Russia and China. A pertinent example of this is Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky complaining that the US declaration that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “imminent” is severely hurting the Ukrainian economy.
Michael Hudson summarizes the effect of US constraints succinctly:
As in a classical Greek tragedy, U.S. foreign policy is bringing about precisely the outcome that it most fears. Overplaying their hand with their own NATO allies, U.S. diplomats are bringing about Kissinger’s nightmare scenario, driving Russia and China together. While America’s allies are told to bear the costs of U.S. sanctions, Russia and China are benefiting by being obliged to diversify and make their own economies independent of reliance on U.S. suppliers of food and other basic needs. Above all, these two countries are creating their own de-dollarized credit and bank-clearing systems, and holding their international monetary reserves in the form of gold, euros and each other’s currencies to conduct their mutual trade and investment.
Former US congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, has alleged that the “US military-industrial complex needs a war in Ukraine to justify new arms spending and to solidify a new all-out cold war with Russia.” Gabbard said the following:
Really it just points to one conclusion that I can see is they actually want Russia to invade Ukraine. Why would they? Because number one it gives the Biden administration a clear excuse to levy draconian sanctions which are a modern day siege against Russia and the Russian people. And number two, it cements this cold war in place. The military-industrial complex is the one that benefits from this. They clearly control the Biden administration. Warmongers on both sides in Washington have been drumming up these tensions.
If there are those who doubt Gabbard’s statement that there is bi-partisan support in Congress for the US military-industrial complex, let it be noted that the Biden democrats recently approved a $777.7 billion dollar military budget, the highest increase in defense spending since World War II. [LeftVoice writes:] “This budget is 5 percent higher than that under the Trump administration and gives the military $24 billion more than Joe Biden requested.”
Economic sanctions and war to maintain US dominance
The constant hype over an “imminent Russian invasion” on the part of the political class and complicit ”mainsteam” media, vehemently denied by the Kremlin, the removal of embassy staff in Kyiv by the US, the UK and Canada, point to a desperate attempt by an Anglo-American political consortium to goad Russia into invading Ukraine.
The spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova has stated the case bluntly: “The whole world is watching how militarism and imperial ambitions expose themselves. The hysteria of the White House is more indicative than ever. The Anglo-Saxons need a war. At any cost. Provocations, misinformation and threats are a favorite method of solving their own problems.”
“At any cost” has now manifested in fighting which is taking place between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbass region. [As RT writes:] “Leaders from the unrecognized separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in the east of Ukraine reported on Thursday that government troops had attacked the outskirts of its territory. According to the DPR, units from Kiev fired at several towns and villages using 82 millimeter mortars, hand grenades, and rifles”.
While the West continues to blare from all corners the imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has claimed that it was quite likely that Ukraine would seek a military solution to the conflict. There has been no mention in the Western ”mainstream” media of Ukraine’s military build-up along the border with Russia. Subsequent to the shelling of some towns and villages in the Donbass region, “the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics told civilians on Friday to evacuate to Russia to avoid getting caught in the crossfire in case Ukraine starts an attack.”
There should be no surprise as to the fighting which is now breaking out in the Donbass region. Washington wants its war for all the reasons which have been stated above. The process of dividing in order to establish control as was the case in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other areas where Western interests dictate the theft of energy resources which do not belong to them, appears to be the leitmotif which underscores the new aggressiveness on the part of the Ukraine military. It is what Washington/NATO want in their frenzy to circumvent Russian influence and commerce in Europe.
While Russia had not officially recognized the breakaway republics as independent states, this week, “ the Russian parliament voted in favor of a motion addressed to President Vladimir Putin that called for Russia to announce its support for the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk, with 351 legislators backing the draft proposal and just 16 opposing. Today, February 21, 2022, Vladimir Putin acted on the motion presented to him by the Russian parliament and announced that Russia will now officially recognize the independence of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. This is the result of Washington’s belligerent policy toward Russia, and Ukraine is the big loser. What this means is that Crimea will not be returned to Ukraine. Zelensky and his countrymen can thank Biden and Nuland for that. This is a failure of policy on the part of the Biden administration. Clearly, the Emperor has no clothes. It is also a failure which reflects on the ineptitude and servility of Canadian foreign policy.
In short, the US/NATO has been defeated on the diplomatic front and will now have to strike a deal with the Kremlin which will meet everyone’s interests. This is a clear defeat for the Anglo-American consortium. European interests do not include being subservient to NATO, Washington’s lapdog. The Warsaw Pact no longer exists. There is no justification for the presence of NATO in Europe. This the European Union clearly understands. What it also understands is that Vladimir Putin holds all the cards and is playing them masterfully. No core deal can be struck unless it respects Russian interests.
Take, for example statements from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as to whom they view as holding the upper hand: Qatar has stated that it is virtually impossible to replace Russian gas supplies to Europe. Qatar’s Energy minister said on February 22nd, 2022 that “Neither Qatar nor any other single country has the capacity to replace Russian gas supplies to Europe with liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the event of disruption due to a conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”
Just today, the United Arab Emirates and Russia’s foreign ministers “stressed ‘the strength and solidity’ of their relationship as well as their keenness to enhance Emirati-Russia cooperation during a telephone call on Wednesday, UAE’s state news agency said.” No one has to tell the oil producing countries where their interests lie and who is the ultimate winner in the Russia-Ukraine stakes. Consider further that Canada is a non-player in all of this. Trudeau’s sanctions announced today along with his promise to send a few hundred Canadian troops to Ukraine will decidedly not stop Putin from sleeping at night. Trudeau’s threats amount to little more than PR for public consumption after his ineptness in resolving the “siege of Ottawa” which lasted three weeks and left a bad taste in the mouths of Ottawa residents.
The problem here has not been created by Russian aggression; it is the US/NATO’s intent to dominate European and Asian trade and resources that is problematic. What is happening in Ukraine cannot be seen as separate from the geo-political situation in the Persian Gulf, in the area of the South China Sea, in Latin America, in Africa, in the Middle East. It is potentially a situation which, if not defused by a multilateral approach to trade, commerce and geo-politics, could result down the road in a major armed conflict.
It would be foolish to believe that such a war would not also include Chinese involvement. That would mean the onset of a third World War. Let it be noted that China, Russia, and Iran are holding their third joint naval operation in the northern Indian Ocean “amid speculation that the three countries are teaming up in the face of growing regional tensions with the United States.” That is their response to US sanctions and US/NATO belligerence. It does not augur well for the prospect of long-term peace.
The end of Empire
The American Empire, like the Roman Empire before it, is overstretched, dominated by oligarchs bent on pursuing their own private interests who essentially dictate policy to government, dependent on feeding an insatiable military-industrial complex at the expense of social programs, all of it financed by a fiat dollar, which risks devaluation in the case of hyperinflation. It survives only on the basis of imposing a specific monetary order on the entire world.
As Michael Hudson states it:
The only way for the United States to sustain its international financial balance is by monopoly pricing of its arms, patented pharmaceutical and information-technology exports, and by buying control of the most lucrative production and potentially rent-extracting sectors abroad—in other words, by spreading neoliberal economic policy throughout the world in a way that obliges other countries to depend on U.S. loans and investment.
Hence, one immediately understands how BRICS, the Belt and Road Initiative, and de-dollarization threaten US domination of the global commerce and trade. The fact of the matter is that the United States is no longer number one. Its Monroe Doctrine is obsolete. It is in danger of seeing the power of its dollar crumble by way of de-dollarization. It is an empire in dramatic decline whose political and economic elites understand the nature of that decline and still yearn to dominate the world. They reject the fact that in terms of the politics of State, we live in a multi-polar world. That does not mesh well with the desire to remain number one when that is no longer a possibility.
The danger in this is that a wounded entity struggling for supremacy which is no longer a possibility, will seek by any means necessary including all-out war to re-establish that supremacy. The fact of the matter is that the Unites States of America cannot win a war against the combined power of a Chinese-Russian alliance. The attempt, however, would mean a world war, the final denouement of the American Empire and the West as a whole. The deaths of millions of human beings. To pursue such a course is sheer madness. But there appear to be madmen and madwomen in Washington.
Marshall McLuhan’s prophecy that “the successor to politics will be propaganda” has happened. Raw propaganda is now the rule in Western [quote-on-quote] democracies, especially the U.S. and Britain.
On matters of war and peace, ministerial deceit is reported as news. Inconvenient facts are censored, demons are nurtured. The model is corporate spin, the currency of the age. In 1964, McLuhan famously declared, “The medium is the message.” The lie is the message now.
The government of Canada—governing party and opposition parties—are part of that lie. It is a testimony to the political vacuum which is Canada.
Bruce Katz is a founding member and current co-president of PAJU (Palestinian and Jewish Unity), a Montreal-based pro-Palestinian solidarity organization.
Featured image: Flags of the DPR & LPR.