What Is Going to Happen in Ukraine?

Yves here. It’s a sign of the times that authors Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies feel compelled to treat a Russian attack on Ukraine as a major scenario, but writers have to address the presumed priors of their readers.

By Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran and  Nicolas J. S. Davies, an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

Every day brings new noise and fury in the crisis over Ukraine, mostly from Washington. But what is really likely to happen?

There are three possible scenarios:

The first is that Russia will suddenly launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The second is that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv will launch an escalation of its civil war against the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR), provoking various possible reactions from other countries.

The third is that neither of these will happen, and the crisis will pass without a major escalation of the war in the short term.

So who will do what, and how will other countries respond in each case?

Unprovoked Russian invasion

This seems to be the least likely outcome.

An actual Russian invasion would unleash unpredictable and cascading consequences that could escalate quickly, leading to mass civilian casualties, a new refugee crisis in Europe, war between Russia and NATO, or even nuclear war.

If Russia wanted to annex the DPR and LPR, it could have done so amid the crisis that followed the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014. Russia already faced a furious Western response over its annexation of Crimea, so the international cost of annexing the DPR and LPR, which were also asking to rejoin Russia, would have been less then than it would be now.

Russia instead adopted a carefully calculated position in which it gave the Republics only covert military and political support. If Russia was really ready to risk so much more now than in 2014, that would be a dreadful reflection of just how far U.S.-Russian relations have sunk.

If Russia does launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine or annex the DPR and LPR, Biden has already said that the United States and NATO would not directly fight a war with Russia over Ukraine, although that promise could be severely tested by the hawks in Congress and a media hellbent on stirring up anti-Russia hysteria.

However, the United States and its allies would definitely impose heavy new sanctions on Russia, cementing the Cold War economic and political division of the world between the United States and its allies on one hand, and Russia, China and their allies on the other. Biden would achieve the full-blown Cold War that successive U.S. administrations have been cooking up for a decade, and which seems to be the unstated purpose of this manufactured crisis.

In terms of Europe, the U.S. geopolitical goal is clearly to engineer a complete breakdown in relations between Russia and the European Union (EU), to bind Europe to the United States. Forcing Germany to cancel its $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia will certainly make Germany more energy dependent on the U.S. and its allies. The overall result would be exactly as Lord Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary General, described when he said that the purpose of the alliance was to keep “the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

Brexit (the U.K. departure from the EU) detached the U.K from the EU and cemented its “special relationship” and military alliance with the United States. In the current crisis, this joined-at-the-hip U.S.-U.K. alliance is reprising the unified role it played to diplomatically engineer and wage wars on Iraq in 1991 and 2003.

Today, China and the European Union (led by France and Germany) are the two leading trade partners of most countries in the world, a position formerly occupied by the United States. If the U.S. strategy in this crisis succeeds, it will erect a new Iron Curtain between Russia and the rest of Europe to inextricably tie the EU to the United States and prevent it from becoming a truly independent pole in a new multipolar world. If Biden pulls this off, he will have reduced America’s celebrated “victory” in the Cold War to simply dismantling the Iron Curtain and rebuilding it a few hundred miles to the east 30 years later.

But Biden may be trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted. The EU is already an independent economic power. It is politically diverse and sometimes divided, but its political divisions seem manageable when compared with the political chaos,corruption and endemic poverty in the United States.Most Europeans think their political systems are healthier and more democratic than America’s, and they seem to be correct.

Like China, the EU and its members are proving to be more reliable partners for international trade and peaceful development than the self-absorbed, capricious and militaristic United States, where positive steps by one administration are regularly undone by the next, and whose military aid and arms sales destabilize countries (as in Africa right now), and strengthen dictatorships and extreme right-wing governments around the world.

But an unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine would almost certainly fulfill Biden’s goal of isolating Russia from Europe, at least in the short term. If Russia was ready to pay that price, it would be because it now sees the renewed Cold War division of Europe by the United States and NATO as unavoidable and irrevocable, and has concluded that it must consolidate and strengthen its defenses. That would also imply that Russia has China’s full supportfor doing so, heralding a darker and more dangerous future for the whole world.

Ukrainian Escalation of Civil War

The second scenario, an escalation of the civil war by Ukrainian forces, seems more likely.

Whether it is a full-scale invasion of the Donbas or something less, its main purpose from the U.S. point of view would be to provoke Russia into intervening more directly in Ukraine, to fulfill Biden’s prediction of a “Russian invasion” and unleash the maximum pressure sanctions he has threatened.

While Western leaders have been warning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian, DPR and LPR officials have been warning for months that Ukrainian government forces were escalating the civil war and have 150,000 troops and new weapons poised to attack the DPR and LPR.

In that scenario, the massive U.S. and Western arms shipments arriving in Ukraine on the pretext of deterring a Russian invasion would in fact be intended for use in an already planned Ukrainian government offensive.

On one hand, if Ukrainian President Zelensky and his government are planning an offensive in the East, why are they so publicly playing down fears of a Russian invasion? Surely they would be joining the chorus from Washington, London and Brussels, setting the stage to point their fingers at Russia as soon as they launch their own escalation.

And why are the Russians not more vocal in alerting the world to the danger of escalation by Ukrainian government forces surrounding the DPR and LPR? Surely the Russians have extensive intelligence sources inside Ukraine and would know if Ukraine was indeed planning a new offensive. But the Russians seem much more concerned by the breakdown in U.S.-Russian relations than in what the Ukrainian military may be up to.

On the other hand, the U.S., U.K. and NATO propaganda strategy has been organized in plain sight, with a new “intelligence” revelation or high-level pronouncement for every day of the month. So what might they have up their sleeves? Are they really confident that they can wrong-foot the Russians and leave them carrying the can for a deception operation that could rival the Tonkin Gulf incident or the WMD lies about Iraq?

The plan could be very simple. Ukrainian government forces attack. Russia comes to the defense of the DPR and LPR. Biden and Boris Johnson scream “Invasion,” and “We told you so!” Macron and Scholz mutely echo “Invasion,” and “We stand together.” The United States and its allies impose “maximum pressure” sanctions on Russia, and NATO’s plans for a new Iron Curtain across Europe are a fait accompli.

An added wrinkle could be the kind of “false flag”narrative that U.S. and U.K. officials have hinted at several times. A Ukrainian government attack on the DPR or LPR could be passed off in the West as a “false flag” provocation by Russia, to muddy the distinction between a Ukrainian government escalation of the civil war and a “Russian invasion.”

It’s unclear whether such plans would work, or whether they would simply divide NATO and Europe, with different countries taking different positions. Tragically, the answer might depend more on how craftily the trap was sprung than on the rights or wrongs of the conflict.

But the critical question will be whether EU nations are ready to sacrifice their own independence and economic prosperity, which depends partly on natural gas supplies from Russia, for the uncertain benefits and debilitating costs of continued subservience to the U.S. empire. Europe would face a stark choice between a full return to its Cold War role on the front line of a possible nuclear war and the peaceful, cooperative future the EU has gradually but steadily built since 1990.

Many Europeans are disillusioned with the neoliberal economic and political order that the EU has embraced, but it was subservience to the United States that led them down that garden path in the first place. Solidifying and deepening that subservience now would consolidate the plutocracy and extreme inequality of U.S.-led neoliberalism, not lead to a way out of it.

Biden may get away with blaming the Russians for everything when he’s kowtowing to war-hawks and preening for the TV cameras in Washington. But European governments have their own intelligence agencies andmilitary advisors, who are not all under the thumb of the CIA and NATO. The German and French intelligence agencies have often warned their bosses not to follow the U.S. pied piper, notably intoIraq in 2003. We must hope they have not all lost their objectivity, analytical skills or loyalty to their own countries since then.

If this backfires on Biden, and Europe ultimately rejects his call to arms against Russia, this could be the moment when Europe bravely steps up to take its place as a strong, independent power in the emerging multipolar world.

Nothing Happens

This would be the best outcome of all: an anti-climax to celebrate.

At some point, absent an invasion by Russia or an escalation by Ukraine, Biden would sooner or later have to stop crying “Wolf” every day.

All sides could climb back down from their military build-ups, panicked rhetoric and threatened sanctions.

The Minsk Protocol could be revived, revised and reinvigorated to provide a satisfactory degree of autonomy to the people of the DPR and LPR within Ukraine, or facilitate a peaceful separation.

The United States, Russia and China could begin more serious diplomacy to reduce the threat of nuclear war and resolve their many differences, so that the world could move forward to peace and prosperity instead of backwards to Cold War and nuclear brinkmanship.


However it ends, this crisis should be a wake-up call for Americans of all classes and political persuasions to reevaluate our country’s position in the world. We have squandered trillions of dollars, and millions of other people’s lives, with our militarism and imperialism. The U.S. military budget keeps rising with no end in sight–and now the conflict with Russia has become another justification for prioritizing weapons spending over the needs of our people.

Our corrupt leaders have tried but failed to strangle the emerging multipolar world at birth through militarism and coercion. As we can see after 20 years of war in Afghanistan, we cannot fight and bomb our way to peace or stability, and coercive economic sanctions can be almost as brutal and destructive. We must also re-evaluate the role of NATO and wind down this military alliance that has become such an aggressive and destructive force in the world.

Instead, we must start thinking about how a post-imperial America can play a cooperative and constructive role in this new multipolar world, working with all our neighbors to solve the very serious problems facing humanity in the 21st Century.


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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    I think that the Iraq scenario is now in re-runs: “In terms of Europe, the U.S. geopolitical goal is clearly to engineer a complete breakdown in relations between Russia and the European Union (EU), to bind Europe to the United States. Forcing Germany to cancel its $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia will certainly make Germany more energy dependent on the U.S. and its allies.”

    Oh, it’s all about control of energy sources. And the endless blabbering about invasions in the US of A is the equivalent of the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. We’ve been here before.

    Senator Emma Bonino was quoted in La Stampa as calling Americans overdirective, which was a diplomatic word for, ooohhh, out of control. So I’d be inclined to think that the Germans, French, and Italians know a nice little war in the Ukraine will be good for their governing coalitions or economies.

    In the U S of A, where coups d’état and “managed” wars, along with sanctions, are the main instruments of foreign policy, the Wise Men and Women of the administration, along with such luminaries as Ted Cruz and Mike Pompeo, have no other tactics. Every other country is simply another Guatemala, a country that the US of A has spent the last seventy years destroying. (I won’t even mention Brazil.)

    Or Chile. Which, like Russia, received the tender mercies of U.S. market fundamentalism.

    Would that Medea Benjamin’s concluding paragraphs about coming to realizations were true. But if the mass murder of civilians caused by U.S. policy in Iraq, Libya, and Syria doesn’t give Biden, Blinken, and Pelosi pause, nothing will.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      …will NOT be good for their governing coalitions or economies.

      [I pushed a button too quickly.]

        1. LawnDart

          Hopefully, our overlords will not be pushing any buttons too quickly (or at all).

          Practice makes perfect.

          “on February 19, under the supervision of the supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a planned exercise of the forces of strategic deterrence will take place, during which ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched.”


          I guess we might not be needing that microwave to get the popcorn ready, as it’ll pop more-or-less by itself.

          Hopefully US commanders aren’t considering the use of tactical nukes to fend off a Russian response to the Ukrainian offensive/invasion of the breakaway republics, because I’m pretty sure that to the Russians, “Nukes are nukes” and that any lawyerly distinction between tactical and strategic weapons is mostly irrelevant.

          1. Irrational

            Yes, and the separatists and the government forces in the Ukraine are shooting at each other (sorry I forget where I read that), possibly setting us up nicely for scenario 2.
            Still, thanks to Yves for posting a link to a sane article instead of the “war, war, war” of the MSM – BBC is particularly bad right just now: “Russia build-up most significant since WW2″ and ” Putin’s possible routes of invasion”.
            As DJG says, WMD all over again.
            Final note: not so sure I would be quite so optimistic about European politics. Plenty of grifters here, too.

    2. Louis Fyne

      Short-term, mid-term, there is not enough natural gas in the world to supply the EU without Russia. Sanction Russia, the USA will see 10%+ inflation

      Russia is not afraid of US sanctions…higher US heating bills, gasoline >$5/gallon, higher global fertilizer prices, higher metals prices. Russia will be laughing to the bank.

      Though some Russian liberals will be sad that they won’t have new iPhones.

      The White House are genuinely insane for not giving Putin an off-ramp (make Ukraine adhere to the already signed Minsk 2 agreements)

  2. PlutoniumKun

    It says everything that a straightforward, logical and well argued article like this is nowhere to be found (so far as I can see) anywhere in the English speaking mainstream media. Even the fairly neutral news sources seem to be accepting wild assertions as facts without applying even the most basic critical thinking. I’ve also seen a number of otherwise fairly sensible people claiming that the reason Russia didn’t invade on the 14th, or 16th, or whenever the latest claim was, is because they are backing down in the face of Biden’s strong stance.

    The scary thing is that sometimes talking as if a war is inevitable does indeed, make a war inevitable, because leaders find it impossible to stand down having talked themselves into positions they can’t retreat from. Macron seems the only major western leader who seems to recognise that all sides need to make some token moves to calm down the posturing. The problem is that a lot of people in Washington and London have no personal skin in the game – I really think they don’t care about what happens, so long as they gain whatever political win they think they can get from this.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, PK.

      Just to add to your last sentence, the posturing (without skin in the game) in London is complicated by the war of the Johnson succession.

      Although there a few more former soldiers in the Commons, including at ministerial level, than a decade or two ago, it’s nowhere a generation ago. The reality check provided by them a generation ago and, two decades ago at head of government level, Jacques Chirac, is sorely lacking.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        I should have added that the politicisation and corruption of the upper echelons of the civil service and armed forces is making a dangerous situation worse.

        Tony Blair* began “sofa government” and invited about 50 advisers from outside the civil service to assist in Whitehall, including Downing Street. “What Tony wants” guided thinking. It’s worse under Johnson as there are over 100 outside advisers. Many are friends and former lovers of his wife. These people have little or no qualifications to be in government / policy making and jockey for position by posturing. One sign of such success is who sits nearest the PM’s office at Number 10.

        With regard to the civil service and armed forces professionals, lucrative jobs await in the MIC and their think tank stooges, especially the Atlantic Council. It is noticeable how many former French government officials work at the Atlantic Council and in US academia.

        *A few of the UK civil servants involved with the Iraq adventure are still in Whitehall.

        One hopes David chimes in as he has better and insider insights.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Sounds like the court of Louis XVI, complete with courtesans and special pleaders.

          Not a Richelieu in sight, though of course he had no more success in instituting policies or behaviors that led inexorably toward a lasting, homeostatic world system than the current crop of ladder-mounters…

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The great problem is there aren’t token moves for Russia to make. There is a treaty that hasn’t been adhered to and deranged sabre rattling from two failed executives. Kennedy was a thug, but he wasn’t a dimwit. Neera instead of Kenny. Blinken instead of Adlai. Anyone instead of Bobby. All Biden knows is he wants to look like a tough guy. As for token moves by the US, the US can’t be trusted. Biden and the bipartisan edifice have demonstrated for decades. Now it’s a receding power. We just doubled child poverty. And Biden wants a bigger Pentagon budget than proposed by Trump.

      Macron is almost there. Functionally they need to repudiate the US and treat it like a trade partner.

    3. Lambert Strether

      > It says everything that a straightforward, logical and well argued article like this is nowhere to be found (so far as I can see) anywhere in the English speaking mainstream media.

      When you have to go to Code Pink for your realpolitik….

    4. Geoffrey

      Surmising (from other comments by PK on NK) that PK is writing from Ireland, I was surprised to find a balanced article in the “Irish Independent” on 17/02/22 by a Mary Dejevsky. I interpret this as the influence of its new Dutch owners at a more balanced view, outside that of the Anglosphere, and more inline with some European thinking….

  3. ambrit

    The spectre haunting Europe today is that, if the Russian speaking sections of the Ukraine manage to pull off a separation from the Ukraine, no matter what happens next for them, other “restive ethnic populations” crammed in with different majority ethnicities inside any of Europe’s many polyglottal States will take note and begin similar ‘movements.’
    We have already seen the “break-up” of Yugoslavia, (a fairly straightforward response to the loss of the strong hand of Tito,) and Czechoslovakia, and the reunification of Germany. All are examples of similarly straightforward accomodations with “Facts on the Ground.”
    Imagine all the chaos and strife that would result from the realignments involved in a regularization of the borders of Europe. The Ukraine alone would lose major chunks of it’s territory to neighbors: Poland, Russia, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, and Roumania. Moldova might disappear altogether.
    The leaders of various European nations must be sleeping fitfully at the prospect. (I am, of course, thinking of European “leaders” capable of imagination. Not a comprehensive list.)

    1. Carolinian

      Don’t forget the separatist movement in Spain.

      It’s hard to see what the Bidenistas even think they are doing other than control the news flow coming out of our always war loving media.

    2. lance ringquist

      what you are describing is what many said would happen as a result of nafta billy clintons illegal assault on what was left of yugoslavia, which at time was fairly stable.

      nafta billys breaking the promise, and war on yugoslavia for free trade, set all this in motion.

      i think the british in the 1800’s used to shout, free trade, we got the guns and money.

    3. Kouros

      Moldova will likely re-integrated in its historical place, with the western part of the province of Moldova, within Romania: a long overdue reunion, already rehearsed twice, in 1917 and in 1941.

  4. JohnA

    British media are already regularly prefixing the Minsk Agreement as ‘the so-called Minsk Agreement’, and basically taking the Ukraine line that it was forced on Ukraine by blackmail. Clearly the US-UK axis does not want peace.

  5. David

    Like all such articles from these sources, it’s not really about Ukraine, it’s about the US. I suspect the last three paragraphs were cut and pasted from another document, written about another country entirely. But frankly, what the US does, or should do, is pretty irrelevant, because it has little ability to influence the crisis.

    What’s happening is quite simple. The Russians have been signalling for sometime that they are unhappy with the eastward expansion of the western bloc, and that western troops deployed on Ukrainian territory will not be tolerated. They are therefore supporting separatists in the East of the country, and creating confusion and panic, as a way of signalling this, and keeping the Ukrainian and the western governments guessing about their intentions. They have no interest in absorbing this area into Russia, and even less in invading the country, not least because the latter move would have the perverse result of bringing NATO forces closer to their (new) borders. The Ukrainians seem to understand this, and there are already the faint outlines of a deal in which the Russians will turn down the volume and stop supporting the separatists so much, while the Ukrainians will back off any idea of NATO membership and won’t allow foreign deployments. It’s unlikely such things will ever be put in writing, because they aren’t.

    NATO does not want a conflict, because its military hollowness and political weakness will be immediately revealed. A military alliance with no weapons except economic sanctions is not a military alliance. There is no master plan by the way: nobody who has seen NATO at work could possibly imagine such a thing. It’s the usual mix of bureaucratic inflexibility, striking of postures, lack of any real forward planning, political divisions and short-term panic. For thirty years NATO has been a car with no reverse gear, and now people are panicking because they can’t find it when they need it. The trouble is that nobody knows how to de-escalate, so the nearest thing to a strategy seems to be to keep making blood-curdling noises to appear strong, whilst allowing the crisis itself to be de-escalated by those concerned, after which NATO can find some way of taking credit. It’s not much of a strategy, and I doubt if it’s articulated anywhere, but it’s about all there is.

    Oh and the alleged citation from Lord Ismay about NATO is completely out of context: the authors should have at least done a bit of research, if only on Wikipedia.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for the input. I think, to be fair to the writer, it was an attempt at just rationally tease out what the likely scenarios might be. None of us really know what Putins inner circle are thinking.

      So far of course its working like a charm for the Russians. They don’t have to lift a finger to create chaos in the western alliance and terrify the Ukrainians. The neocons are very much their useful idiots.

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘there are already the faint outlines of a deal in which the Russians will turn down the volume and stop supporting the separatists so much’

      I’m not sure how that will play out. Putin laid out his red line years ago that he will never, ever allow the Donbass Republics to be overrun by Neo-nasty formations as that would be a mass atrocity waiting to play out. But the past few weeks NATO has been pumping tens of thousands of tons off weaponry into the Ukraine which includes manpads, ATGMs, millions of rounds of ammo and god knows what. Obviously the solution for the west is that the Ukraine conquers those Republics by themselves so that they can turn their attention to their next objective – Crimea. So the Russian Federation has to support the Donbass Republics sufficiently to stop an outright occupation while they organize a counter-strike to force them back out. And as the west pours more weaponry & training into the Ukraine, the Russians have no choice but to do the same for the Donbass Republics.

      1. Polar Socialist

        At least officially, as long as the Minsk has any possibility of success, Russia has not provided Donbass militias with weapons, since that would make them a party to the conflict instead of guarantor of the Accords.

        Anyway, according to the Russian media there has been “continuous shelling” by Ukrainian forces during the last 24 hours, and this afternoon Denis Pushilin, the head of Donetsk People’s Republic declared general evacuation of women, children and elderly people to Russia.

        The DPR and LPR officials claim that Ukrainian army is preparing for an attack towards Debaltseve to cut the connection between the two “republics” and the main road from Donetsk to Russia.

        There’s an old say about war “just happening” when you put enough men and weapons against each other.

        1. ambrit

          Evacuation to Russia.
          Is Russia actively helping in this, or staying “in the shadows?” That would say a lot about the dynamics of this. Would the Ukrainians accept the reconquest of a depopulated Donbass? Plus, what sort of strain would this put on the Russian “disaster response” apparat? It is winter there after all.
          My worry is that US or NATO troops could be involved. If so, I would expect them to be the primary targets of any Russian overt or covert responses. The entire NATO expansion movement is a slap in the Russian face. Expect a strong slap back.
          Then there are the Neo-con Nutcases who believe that they could win a “Limited Nuclear Exchange” with Russia. G–s help us.

          1. Polar Socialist

            At the moment, hard to say without defining “Russia” first…

            Kremlin has denied knowledge of any plans to evacuate people to Rostov region, but a member of the region (and deputy chair of committee on International Affairs) in State Duma said that Rostov region has the required readiness to help, that this is not coming out of the blue.

            Of course, in politico-talk plans to evacuate and plans to prepare for evacuation can be a different thing.

            1. David

              Yes, I’d be surprised if there aren’t SVR/GRU teams in the area (that’s what any competent government would do) and I suspect that the “separatist” leaders will follow a line generally dictated from Moscow, even if they aren’t being controlled in detail. (In most such situations, there are multiple factions, some more under control than others). But put negatively, I doubt whether the leaders would attempt something like this in the face of actual opposition from Moscow.

        2. Maxwell Johnston

          The evacuation announcements are quite a curveball (and on a Friday evening, too); I certainly didn’t expect this. The Lugansk leader has also called for civilians to start leaving. The Rostov governor (that’s in Russia, in case the UK’s foreign minister is reading this) is asking Moscow for assistance to deal with the expected flood of refugees. I assume the Donbas leaders are doing Moscow’s bidding. I’ve no idea what happens next, but things seem to be escalating.

    3. GramSci

      The Ismay citation might be out of context, but sometimes history rhymes. Replacing Nord Stream 2 with US LNG will crater the German economy, which is just fine with DC and Downing Street. F**k the EU.

      1. Marlin

        It would crater the UK economy, too. Not that after Brexit anyone should think this is a deterrent for the current UK elite, but still.

        1. fajensen

          The UK Elite works on the general principle that in order to fix a mess one has gotten itself into, a bigger mess must be created to cover the first one up!

    4. The Historian

      Thanks David. I am trying to understand the Ukraine situation so perhaps you can answer this question: Is the Ukraine government strong enough to fend off a civil war given that the US is pouring weapons and expertise into what appears to be extremely belligerent right wing factions and Russia is pouring weapons and expertise into other factions (I cannot imagine Putin wants an extremely belligerent right wing government on its borders)?

      Seems to me that Ukraine is in the position of being a ‘sick man’ in Europe and both sides see it as ripe for the plucking, preferably without committing their own troops. Am I wrong?

      1. David

        My first-hand knowledge of Ukraine is relatively limited, but I have seen analyses suggesting that the real (ie Bandera-style) nationalists are more powerful than the West often realises, and that this is to some extent forcing the hand of the government, who can’t be seen to be too accommodating.

        I don’t think anybody “wants” Ukraine. There’s nothing there that you can acquire by conquest that you can’t buy, and an awful lot of grief. The US sending weapons there is frankly an admission of weakness and failure: more a political gesture than anything else. They know they can’t intervene militarily, but they have to do something to appease their own hard-liners in Washington. I don’t think the Russians want to break the country up either: they will be happy with a buffer-zone along the frontier which they control in practice, even if they don’t take formal responsibility for it. Arms deliveries are one way of making the separatists dependent on them: it doesn’t mean the Russians want or expect a war.

  6. ex-PFC Chuck

    In mid December Russia did something very unusual in diplomacy, perhaps unprecedented. They published two draft treaties, one between them and NATO, the other with the USA. They had become fed up with endless negotiations as the US/NATO gradually encroached toward their borders and this their response. Putin, Lavrov et al stated these treaties contain are their “red lines,” and they they wanted yes or no answers by a specific date, after which they would begin taking unilateral actions to assure their own security. They were clear that their main objective was to prevent the possibility of nuclear weapons being based so close to their borders that they would have to be permanently in a state of alert comparable to the USA’s DEFCON 2. The date has has since passed with the US offered continued negotiations, which have gone no where. Paul Craig Roberts, who was involved in strategic nuclear weapons negotiations during the Reagan administration, has written they would have jumped at an agreement on such terms.

    The entire 2022 Ukraine affair has been a propaganda op to distract the US and Europe’s attention from the draft treaties. First the US goaded Ukraine into moving most of its army up to the line of contact with Donbass. Russia, in view of their commitment to a peaceful solution within the Minsk accords, responded with military exercises demonstration their readiness to help defend Donbass, and perhaps then some. It finally dawned on Ukraine PM Ze that the US would support an attack only up to the last Ukrainian and went into panic mode trying to deescalate the tension, and the date of the alleged Russian invasion has passed. The fact Benjamin’s piece makes zero mention of the draft treaty back story demonstrates the massive success of the USA’s info op.
    Now that the winter Olympics are almost in the rear view mirror we can expect Russia to begin taking the actions they promised. They will be asymmetrical and my guess is, initially at least, they’ll be economic in nature and focused on Germany.

    1. ChetG

      I agree with your analysis. Ukraine is all about propaganda (although it can spill over into war), but those two treaties are all-important to Russia. And despite what the authors say (if nothing happens),

      All sides could climb back down from their military build-ups, panicked rhetoric and threatened sanctions.

      Russia will not let those treaties disappear. Of course, what Russia will do is anyone’s guess, but Ukraine is not Russia’s main issue.

        1. ambrit

          That’s funny. Your link came up as “About blank#blocked.” I have never seen “Blocked” before.

  7. t hardy

    I really wonder just who is really making foreign policy in the US. Biden is surely just a mouthpiece.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Biden is a failed president. This is all coming through the White House. Politico had articles about perception Biden needed a foreign policy win to get his presidency back on track going back to the late summer. Biden won’t make concessions, even minimal ones, or else, he would have new Iran and Cuba deals. Blinken went to Africa to form an anti-China bloc and more or less said countries want something before and greeting to be lap dogs.

      My guess is they zeroed in NATO expansion. This of course or diced a reaction. Miley said the were surprised by China’s position. He said this in public. This was all just a political game for them. Now Biden is afraid of centrists and Republicans, so he won’t do anything to upset them.

      Obama did the same thing I doubt he knew where Syria even was, but when Dempsey said Syria could retaliate and sink our ships, he simmered down. Biden and his cronies are even dumber than Obama.

      1. John Wright

        I don’t understand how a “Biden foreign policy win” gets his presidency back on track.

        Perhaps I hang with the wrong crowd here on the left coast, but people I know are more concerned about health care, adequate retirement income and good educational and job opportunities for their kids and grand kids than having a “foreign policy win” in a county they have no connection with.

        And there is Covid-19 to be concerned about.

        I point out to people that when the $8.8trillion cost of Afghanistan/Iraq is divided by the US population, it comes to about $26,000 PER US citizen. Of course some USA citizens were on the receiving end of this money while others paid with their lives/health/opportunity cost.

        Is the D.C echo chamber completely out of touch with the US population?

        1. Jason Boxman

          Maybe it doesn’t. Foreign policy is one of the few areas where a presidency has a mostly free hand, and so it might just be Biden wants to do stuff because the president has control over an unimaginably powerful military and foreign policy apparatus and wants to use it, because.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          It’s DC wishful thinking. It’s like lifting mask mandates in schools despite polling. These people are the who lost to Donald Trump and likely be arrested by Trump in his second term. They aren’t very smart.

    2. David

      Nobody “makes” foreign policy in the US. Like everything else there, it’s the outcome of power-struggles between innumerable factions and reflects Washington politics far more than it does the actual situation on the ground. From time to time a powerful figure may be able to decide the all-in mud-wrestling in one sense or another, but a lot of the time you have a confused, multifaceted situation where different groups (especially the Pentagon and the CIA) have their own foreign policies and do what they think they can get away with.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      At this point, they have to be reduced, not replaced. The foreign policy establishment has been trash for so long, there is nothing to replace them with. It’s trash from top to bottom. Taking away their ability to do anything is the solution.

      1. orlbucfan

        Amen, sir. +27. There are plenty of Americans more fed up with the MICC and its kept media poodles than Ms. Benjamin.

    2. Alice X

      I’ll take a stab at answering my own question. The lunatics will lose sway when the war profiteers lose sway. But the MIICC is booby trapped by being spread over all fifty states, hence the uniparty never sees a ‘defense’ budget they won’t increase.

    3. Louis Fyne

      no sane person would tell a rational, empathetic, intelligent kid to work in the US foreign policy Establishment. To advance in the Beltway you have to be a liberal chickenhawk or a conservative chickenhawk.

      All the sane realists have retired in DC a long time ago

      1. Cat Burglar

        That’s been my hypothesis about the significance of the Vietnam War. It goes like this:

        An imperial system needs a stratum of earnest and competent administrators, and at the beginning of the Cold War there was a big supply. The inhuman conduct of the Vietnam conflict made it too obvious what the system was really doing, and too many believing would-be servants of empire turned away in disgust, to be replaced by opportunists. The group of the disgusted went on to form a political presence that has extended itself through multiple generations, creating a deficit of committed and competent executants of empire, as well as a big political management problem for the powers that be.

  8. The Rev Kev

    On a lighter note. This whole thing where Washington keeps saying that the Russians are going to attack on Wednesday the 16th, no, the 20th, no, after the Olympics and it keeps on going week after week and month after month. It’s like trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. It reminds me of something that I saw as a kid – with the same rate of success. So I am waiting for Biden to say “This time for sure!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSxvaXX-pis (1:17 mins)

  9. Douglas

    “Separatists” having lots of shells to lob and “energy supplies”, as in, whom supplies these weapons to native speakers? Can’t claim the stats like Beverly Keever conveyed from her dispatches in 1962 in Vietnam, that all almost of the VC’s weapons were confiscated, not of Comintern sourcing, right? So stating Russia doesn’t have an interest in Crimea is not it, as mere extension of facts like they never were going to give away their Severastopol or w/e base’s environs.

    Will Russia finish “in-filling” their freshly-made “mass graves” of .. mannequins, reminiscent of this:
    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wwii-ghost-army , any .. moment, now? ⬅️

    New demands, “new” the dour: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/44336/russia-is-making-new-demands-as-biden-says-invasion-will-occur-in-a-matter-of-days

    Florida, upon hostilities, sees an “exodus” of “tourists”?

    a.k.a. consequences, “great” patriotism

    Oh my! [So MUCH ALEC-money .. to SO little result!]

  10. Matthew G. Saroff

    It’s clear that that the Russian military exercises are provocative and alarming, but no more than the US-South Korean exercises that are held regularly.

    The purpose of this may be to get the Ukraine to abide by the Minsk accords, which would grant much of the Eastern Ukraine autonomy, but this will not happen, because the right wing Ukrainian nationalists would launch a campaign of assassinations and terrorism against Kiev were this to happen.

    Unlike Crimea, there is no benefit to annexing the Donbas. Like the rest of the Ukraine, it is a basket case, and there is no naval base there.

  11. chuck roast

    IMO the Russians have the most nuanced understanding of what Ukraine is and is not. A sea of languages and ethnicities that is rarely at peace with itself. A brutal and violent seam of nationalistic fascists that frighten the bejesus out of their countrymen. A neglected and decrepit infrastructure. An active and corrupt oligarchy without the least bit of sympathy for a population sunk in chronic poverty. A long standing grievance against the Russians for the crushing of the kulaks and starvation of millions. A country that may be the poorest in Europe. Ukraine…the sad sack of nations.

    Mearsheimer explains the Russian view pretty well in this lecture. What possible rationale would the Russians have for invading this woebegone place? Defanging it? Yes. Occupying it? Only the Americans have this kind of hubris.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I’ve sometimes wondered how many people in the room where 15 year-old Nayirah Al-Ṣabaḥ gave her testimony were aware that she was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador. Certainly the media at the time were not curious to find out. But some must have known. Imagine if somebody had shouted that out in that room at the time, Would it have made a difference? No. But she and her father were never worried about lying in a public hearing as the both of them had diplomatic immunity. By now she must be nearly fifty so I wonder how she feels about that whole episode now.

  12. Russell Davies

    If the invasion of Ukraine takes place, it will not necessarily be because Russia intends to invade. It continues to deny that it has any plans to do so and, if it does invade, its strategy will have failed. Its troops have stayed – largely – within Russia’s own borders, despite Liz Truss’s attempt to rewrite Russian geography. The US (and UK) have repeatedly claimed that an invasion was imminent, that it would happen in January, last weekend or last Wednesday; Sunday is now the latest invasion date. The Second World War is invoked at every opportunity. Like so many apocalyptic predictions, deadlines for the invasion declared by Biden and his tribunes have come and gone with nothing happening; and just like apocalyptic cultists the fact that they were wrong did not lead them to change their views; they just produced a new imminence, with Biden as the imminence grise.

    We are in the middle of an endlessly deferred imminence, where pronouncements uncontaminated by evidence are delivered to a media which is happy to regurgitate them without any attempt at verification. For the government spokespersons, the mere act of speaking is sufficient to declare the truth of their utterance. Ned Price, in telling his audience that Russia was fabricating an attack by Ukrainian forces to justify the invasion, clearly believed that his speech act was sufficient in itself to establish the truth of its content. Matt Lee, stepping outside of the media’s government-approved role of court pornographer, asked to see evidence of the claim, not realising that the claim itself is sufficient evidence for a country that creates its own reality as it acts. This is a new principle of sufficient reason whereby whatever reason the US government gives automatically substantiates its own truth and is sufficient for the rest of us to believe it.

    Clearly the focus on an “imminent” invasion of Ukraine is another form of deferral, an attempt by the US to defer any proper consideration of the two draft treaties that Russia produced for the US and NATO. Again the press is more than happy to go along with this, placing the blame for the crisis on the malign aggression of one man, Vladimir Putin, and using its mind-reading skills to elucidate his motives. In this way, the media avoid any real examination of the geopolitical forces that have brought us to peak imminent war. It’s much easier to indulge in amateur psychology than to look at the history of last 30 years since the dissolution of the USSR.

    The Western powers have known, ever since NATO began pushing eastwards, that any such expansion right up to Russia’s borders could very likely lead to catastrophe. In 1998, George Kennan called it the beginning of a new cold war: “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.” In saying this, he was echoing Jack Matlock, the last US ambassador to the USSR, at a senate hearing in 1997. Approving NATO expansion “may well go down in history as the most profound strategic blunder made since the end of the Cold War. Far from improving the security of the United States, its Allies, and the nations that wish to enter the Alliance, it could well encourage a chain of events that could produce the most serious security threat to this nation since the Soviet Union collapsed”.

    This understanding did not go away. In February 2008, following Putin’s 2007 speech in Munich where he talked about the indivisibility of security and of the provocation of NATO expansion, William Burns, current CIA director, then US ambassador to Russia, sent a memo – headlined Nyet means Nyet – making Russia’s concerns very clear: “Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”

    Rather than heeding this memo as a warning, the US seems to have used it as a strategy document pushing Russia towards that decision in order to fulfil Dick Cheney’s desire not just to dismantle the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but Russia itself.

    Nor should we forget how much NATO’s role in Yugoslavia plays into Russia’s concerns. At the press conference with Chancellor Scholz last Tuesday, Putin had to remind him – when Scholz said that war in Europe was unimaginable – that there had been a war in Europe as recently as 1999. We “all witnessed a war in Europe that was unleashed by the NATO bloc against Yugoslavia. A large military operation with missile and bomb attacks on a European capital, Belgrade” without UN Security Council sanction. In that year, Peter Gowan, a professor in international relations, saw a new US-NATO paradigm being established where “attacking damaged sovereign states is legitimate; shattering their military forces, infrastructures and economies is permissible; ignoring the UN Charter and the checks built into the UN Security Council structure is unavoidable; and marginalizing and excluding a currently weak Russia is necessary”.

    In the same year, Slavoj Zizek also saw this as a watershed. NATO’s bombardment “will change the global geopolitical co-ordinates. The unwritten pact of peaceful coexistence – the respect of each state’s full sovereignty, that is, non-interference in internal affairs, even in the case of the grave violation of human rights – is over…The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia also signals the end of any serious role for the UN and Security Council: it is NATO, under US guidance, that effectively pulls the strings. Furthermore, the silent pact with Russia that held till now is broken: in the terms of this pact, Russia was publicly treated as a superpower, allowed to maintain the appearance of being one, on condition that it did not effectively act as one. Now Russia’s humiliation is open, any pretence of dignity is unmasked: Russia can only openly resist or openly comply with Western pressure”.

    We have now reached Russia’s point of open resistance. This is simultaneously its point of maximum strength and maximum weakness, strength in terms of its perceived military advantage, weakness in that it has nowhere else to go; it cannot back down as to do so would see it collapse. This is Putin’s Lutheran moment in which he challenges the reigning imperial power. Having nailed his theses – the two draft treaties – to the door of the West, he has to see the challenge through to the end, whatever that end might be: “Hier stehe ich; ich kann nicht anders.”

  13. Synoia

    However, the United States and its allies would definitely impose heavy new sanctions on Russia, cementing the Cold War economic and political division of the world between the United States and its allies on one hand, and Russia, China and their allies on the other.

    Leading to a presumption that this is about China and its manufacturing prowess. Ukraine , Russia and Europe are just pawns in this action to preserve US hegemony.

  14. RobertC

    I agree with Medea Benjamin that Putin’s most undesired path is armed conflict, even with standoff weapons.

    Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden in his autocracy vs democracy challenge said confrontation would be one method. And Russia and China have responded Your Proposal is Acceptable.

    I believe Putin and Xi gamed out and are executing a confrontation with Biden in Europe, splitting the Atlantic alliance, using Ukraine as their cat’s paw and commodity prices as their lever. And so far everything is moving according to their plans.

    At very low budget and reputational cost, Putin is distracting Biden from his intended domestic and foreign policy plans. Biden is expending immense personal and political energy with no gains in unity, either in Congress or in the EU. And with high gasoline prices he is losing ground with the American public that isn’t accepting his “defending democracy and liberty is never without cost.” rationale. The American public remembers Ukraine as the hotbed of corruption resulting in Trump’s impeachment and Hunter Biden’s bribes.

    Putin and his awesome central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina have prepared Russia for this moment.

    America and Europe haven’t and they’re flailing.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Putin is distracting Biden from his intended domestic and foreign policy plans.

      Biden has plans? Biden is a listless bum looking for an opportunity to be a tough guy. He has no plans beyond look like a tough guy.

    2. Miles@michaelmiles.net

      Something to consider wth Mr. Biden’s strategy is that while the stock market is crashing, the Masters of War, are doing remarkably well. I wouldn’t put it past the grifters to run up their investments and then let everyone get out before declaring peace. Maybe he needs to pass his $800 billion “Defense” budget first. Grifters gotta grift.

      The scary alternative is to use this as a solution to the climate crisis. JK!

  15. Susan the other

    This is a very good synopsis. If we shuffled these points with Gail Tverberg’s points about energy we’d have a full deck. And a new “new deal” might actually be possible. Globally. For now, the United States is just bluffing.

  16. Tony Wright

    I cannot help feeling that most of the US attitude regarding Ukraine is mostly about posturing tough to Putin so as to dissuade Xi from “unifying” Taiwan by military means.
    Speaking of which, I think many Australian wine, barley, beef and seafood producers would choke on the author’s assertion that China is a more reliable trade partner than the US.

  17. LawnDart

    Re: Ukraine

    Haven’t seen this source appear yet in any links, but it could be found useful for timely news over the next few weeks: Donetsk News Agency


    The Saker is also running open threads on the situation, and Dmitry Orlov has an article there which is a pretty interesting take on things– how evacuation can work towards Russia’s advantage.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that President Zelensky has much, if any, control over what his army does next. If he did, then why are the bombs falling?

      1. LawnDart

        I miss Robert Parry.

        … it is a safe bet that when the current ceasefire breaks down and the killing resumes, all the American people will hear is that it was Putin’s fault, that he conspired to destroy the peace as part of his grand scheme of “aggression.” And, the Nuland-Yatsenyuk sabotage of Minsk-2 will be the next part of this troubling story to disappear into the memory hole.


        Guess what the cookie monster is up to these days? (See transcript if you don’t want to listen to her) I guess the neocons aren’t quite as sidelined under Biden as they were under Obama, which really isn’t saying much. From US state media…



    1. LawnDart

      Is Harris serving hot chocolate to the Azov Battalion? Maybe offering to introduce Zelensky around Hollywood in case he may be wishing to resume his acting career in the near future?

      The neocons have been trying to split Russia from Europe for years (and vice-versa), but I’m wondering what makes this the right time? A last-ditch effort to establish solid “facts on the ground” that the next administration must deal with?

      Maybe a Europe united with Russia, and Russian resources, could pose an economic threat to USA, in a decade or two. “Friendship” aside, business is business…

      Without a threat, no weapons sales and no protection-racket in the form of NATO… …not much relevance left to be had for a former superpower, hollowed-out, and its yankee dollars. But at least it’ll take our minds off of covid and other troubles, so there’s that.

      Hell, for $600, I might even go along with it– I just want my slice of that American Dream, man!

  18. JeffK

    We haven’t heard too much about how Ukraine is playing this deadly drama to their advantage. Why are they “not concerned”? We hear about their becoming the potential victims of a invasion, or read requests for defense weaponry. We hear about the EU countries and NATO allies trying to mediate the conflict, and of course the US’s economic retaliation. Could it be that Russia is less concerned about Ukraine’s potential NATO membership and more threatened by their potential EU membership? Is Ukraine trying to use this conflict to solidify allies in the EU to make their case? One hundred fifty thousand enemy troops on your border…what, me worry? There’s got to be a backstory we are not privy to.

  19. Moneycircus

    The good news is war in Ukraine is hot air from the mouths of Western politicians, even as the autonomous region of Donetsk evacuates its civilians.

    The bad news: The other war is real and it may be won without firing a shot. The target is Britain, U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia. They are under assault and The Investors are molding the world in their image.

    I reference the Benjamin/Davies article.


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