How to End the War in Ukraine

Lambert: “Once the world’s courts establish such a precedent in Ukraine v. Russia (X), would-be strongmen might have to think twice before invading another country, knowing that wars of choice now come with a prohibitive price tag.” As, for example, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.

By Alfred McCoy, Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books). His new book, just published, is To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change. Originally published at TomDispatch.

As the war in Ukraine heads for its third month amid a rising toll of death and destruction, Washington and its European allies are scrambling, so far unsuccessfully, to end that devastating, globally disruptive conflict. Spurred by troubling images of executed Ukrainian civilians scattered in the streets of Bucha and ruined cities like Mariupol, they are already trying to use many tools in their diplomatic pouches to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to desist. These range from economic sanctions and trade embargoes to the confiscation of the assets of some of his oligarch cronies and the increasingly massive shipment of arms to Ukraine. Yet none of it seems to be working.

Even after Ukraine’s surprisingly strong defense forced a Russian retreat from the northern suburbs of the capital, Kyiv, Putin only appears to be doubling down with plans for new offensives in Ukraine’s south and east. Instead of engaging in serious negotiations, he’s been redeploying his battered troops for a second round of massive attacks led by General Alexander Dvonikov, “the butcher of Syria,” whose merciless air campaigns in that country flattened cities like Aleppo and Homs.

So while the world waits for the other combat boot to drop hard, it’s already worth considering where the West went wrong in its efforts to end this war, while exploring whether anything potentially effective is still available to slow the carnage.

Playing the China Card

In January 2021, only weeks after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Moscow began threatening to attack Ukraine unless Washington and its European allies agreed that Kyiv could never join NATO. That April, Putin only added force to his demand by dispatching 120,000 troops to Ukraine’s border to stage military maneuvers that Washington even then branded a “war threat.” In response, taking a leaf from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s tattered Cold War playbook, the Biden administration initially tried to play Beijing off against Moscow.

After a face-to-face summit with Putin in Geneva that June, President Biden affirmed Washington’s “unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” In a pointed warning to the Russian president, he said,

“You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China… China is… seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world. You’re in a situation where your economy is struggling… I don’t think [you should be] looking for a Cold War with the United States.”

As Russian armored units began massing for war near the Ukrainian border that November, U.S. intelligence officials all-too-accurately leaked warnings that “the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive… involving up to 175,000 troops.” In response, over the next three months, administration officials scrambled to avert war by meeting a half-dozen times with Beijing’s top diplomats and beseeching “the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade.”

In a video conference on December 7th, Biden told Putin of his “deep concerns… about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine,” warning that “the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.”

In a more amicable video conference just a week later, however, Putin assured China’s President Xi Jinping that he would defy any human-rights boycott by Western leaders and come to Beijing for the Winter Olympics. Calling him his “old friend,” Xi replied that he appreciated this unwavering support and “firmly opposed attempts to drive a wedge into our two countries.” Indeed, during the February Olympics opening ceremony, the two of them publicly proclaimed a de facto alliance that had “no limits,” even as Beijing evidently made it clear that Russia should not spoil China’s glittering Olympic moment on the international stage with an invasion right then.

In retrospect, it’s hard to overstate the price Putin paid for China’s backing. So desperate was he to preserve their new alliance that he sacrificed his only chance for a quick victory over Ukraine. By the time Putin landed in Beijing on February 4th, 130,000 Russian troops had already massed on the Ukrainian border. Delaying an invasion until the Olympics ended left most of them huddled in unheated canvas tents for three more weeks. When the invasion finally began, idling vehicles had burned through much of their fuel, truck tires sitting without rotation were primed for blow-outs, and the rations and morale of many of those soldiers were exhausted.

In early February, the ground in Ukraine was still frozen, making it possible for Russia’s tanks to swarm overland, potentially encircling the capital, Kyiv, for a quick victory. Because the Olympics didn’t end until February 20th, Russia’s invasion, which began four days later, was ever closer to March, Ukraine’s mud month when average temperatures around Kyiv rise rapidly. Adding to Moscow’s difficulties, at 51 tons, its T-90 tanks were almost twice as heavy as the classic go-anywhere Soviet T-34s which won World War II. When those modern steel-clad behemoths did try to leave the roads near Kyiv, they often sank deep and fast in the mud, becoming sitting ducks for Ukrainian missiles.

Instead of surging across the countryside to envelop Kyiv, Russia’s tanks found themselves stuck in a 40-mile traffic jam on a paved highway where Ukrainian defenders armed with shoulder-fired missiles could destroy them with relative ease. Being enveloped by the enemy instead of enveloping them cost the Russian army most of its losses to date — estimated recently at 40,000 troops killed, wounded, or captured, along with 2,540 armored vehicles and 440 rocket and artillery systems destroyed. As those crippling losses mounted, Russia’s army was forced to abandon its five-week campaign to capture the capital. On April 2nd, the retreat began, leaving behind a dismal trail of burned vehicles, dead soldiers, and slaughtered civilians.

In the end, Vladimir Putin paid a high price indeed for China’s support.

President Xi’s foreknowledge of the plans to invade Ukraine and his seemingly steadfast support even after so many weeks of lackluster military performance raise some revealing parallels with the alliance between Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, and China’s Mao Zedong in the early days of the Cold War. After Stalin’s pressure on Western Europe was blocked by the Berlin airlift of 1948-1949 and the formation of NATO in April 1950, the Soviet boss made a deft geopolitical pivot to Asia. He played upon his brand-new alliance with a headstrong Mao by getting him to send Chinese troops into the maelstrom of the Korean War. For three years, until his death in 1953 allowed an armistice to be reached, Stalin kept the U.S. military bogged down and bloodied in Korea, freeing him to consolidate his control over Eastern Europe.

Following this same geopolitical strategy, President Xi has much to gain from Putin’s headstrong plunge into Ukraine. In the short term, Washington’s focus on Europe postpones a promised (and long-delayed) U.S. “pivot” to the Pacific, allowing Beijing to further consolidate its position in Asia. Meanwhile, as Putin’s military flattens cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol, making Russia an outlaw state, a mendicant Moscow is likely to become a cut-rate source of much-needed Chinese fuel and food imports. Not only does Beijing need Russia’s gas to wean its economy from coal but, as the world’s largest consumer of wheat, it could achieve food security with a lock on Russia’s massive grain exports. Just as Stalin capitalized on Mao’s stalemate in Korea, so the elusive dynamics of Eurasian geopolitics could well transform Putin’s losses into Xi’s gains.

For all these reasons, Washington’s initial strategy had little chance of restraining Russia’s invasion. As retired CIA analyst Raymond McGovern argued, drawing on his 27 years studying the Soviet Union for the agency, “Rapprochement between Russia and China has grown to entente.” In his view, the sooner Biden’s foreign-policy team “get it through their ivy-mantled brains that driving a wedge between Russia and China is not going to happen, the better the chances the world can survive the fallout (figurative and literal) from the war in Ukraine.”


Since the Russian invasion began, the Western alliance has been ramping up an array of sanctions to punish Putin’s cronies and cripple Russia’s economic capacity to continue the war. In addition, Washington has already committed $2.4 billion for arms shipments to Ukraine, including lethal antitank weapons like the shoulder-fired Javelin missile.

On April 6th, the White House announced that the U.S. and its allies had imposed “the most impactful, coordinated, and wide-ranging economic restrictions in history,” banning new investments in Russia and hampering the operations of its major banks and state enterprises. The Biden administration expects the sanctions to shrink Russia’s gross domestic product by 15% as inflation surges, supply chains collapse, and 600 foreign companies exit the country, leaving it in “economic, financial, and technological isolation.” With near unanimous bipartisan support, Congress has also voted to void U.S. trade relations with Moscow and ban its oil imports (measures with minimal impact since Russia only supplies 2% of American petroleum use).

Although the Kremlin’s invasion threatened European security, Brussels moved far more cautiously, since Russia supplies 40% of the European Union’s gas and 25% of its oil — worth $108 billion in payments to Moscow in 2021. For decades, Germany has built massive pipelines to handle Russia’s gas exports, culminating in the 2011 opening of Nordstream I, the world’s longest undersea pipeline, which Chancellor Angela Merkel then hailed as a “milestone in energy cooperation” and the “basis of a reliable partnership” between Europe and Russia.

With its critical energy infrastructure bound to Russia by pipe, rail, and ship, Germany, the continent’s economic giant, is dependent on Moscow for 32% of its natural gas, 34% of its oil, and 53% of its hard coal. After a month of foot-dragging, it did go along with the European decision to punish Putin by cutting off Russian coal shipments, but drew the line at tampering with its gas imports, which heat half its homes and power much of its industry.

To reduce its dependence on Russian gas, Berlin has launched multiple long-term projects to diversify its energy sources, while cancelling the opening of the new $11 billion Nordstream II gas pipeline from Russia. It has also asserted control over its own energy reserves, held inside massive underground caverns, suspending their management by the Russian state firm Gazprom. (As Berlin’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck put it, “We won’t leave energy infrastructure subject to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin.”)

Right after the Ukraine invasion, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a crash program to construct the country’s first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals on its north coast to unload supplies from American ships and those of various Middle Eastern countries. Simultaneously, German officials flew off to the Persian Gulf to negotiate more long-term deliveries of LNG. Still, the construction of such a multibillion-dollar terminal typically takes about four years, and Germany’s vice-chancellor has made it clear that, until then, massive imports of Russian gas will continue in order to preserve the country’s “social peace.” The European Union is considering plans to cut off Russian oil imports completely, but its proposal to slash Russian natural-gas imports by two-thirds by year’s end has already met stiff opposition from Germany’s finance ministry and its influential labor unions, worried about losses of “hundreds of thousands” of jobs.

Given all the exemptions, sanctions have so far failed to fatally cripple Russia’s economy or curtail its invasion of Ukraine. At first, the U.S. and EU restrictions did spark a crash in Russia’s currency, the ruble, which President Biden mockingly called “the rubble,” but its value has since bounced back to pre-invasion levels, while broader economic damage has, so far, proved limited. “As long as Russia can continue to sell oil and gas,” observed Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson International Economics Institute, “the Russian government’s financial situation is actually pretty strong.” And he concluded, “This is the big escape clause of the sanctions.”

In short, the West has seized a few yachts from Putin’s cronies, stopped serving Big Macs in Red Square, and slapped sanctions on everything except the one thing that really matters. With Russia supplying 40% of its gas and collecting an estimated $850 million daily, Europe is, in effect, funding its own invasion.


Following the failure of both Washington’s pressure on China and Western sanctions against Russia to stop the war, the international courts have become the sole peaceful means left to still the conflict. While the law often remains an effective means to mediate conflict domestically, the critical question of enforcing judgements has long robbed the international courts of their promise for promoting peace — a problem painfully evident in Ukraine today.

Even as the fighting rages, two major international courts have already ruled against Russia’s invasion, issuing orders for Moscow to cease and desist its military operations. On March 16th, the U.N.’s highest tribunal, the International Court of Justice, ordered Russia to immediately suspend all military operations in Ukraine, a judgment Putin has simply ignored. Theoretically, that high court could now require Moscow to pay reparations, but Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, could simply veto that decision.

With surprising speed, on day five of the invasion, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at Strasbourg ruled in the case of Ukraine v. Russia (X), ordering the Kremlin “to refrain from military attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including residential premises, emergency vehicles and… schools and hospitals” — a clear directive that Moscow’s military continues to defy with its devastating rocket and artillery strikes. To enforce the decision, the court notified the Council of Europe, which, two weeks later, took the most extreme step its statutes allow, expelling Russia after 26 years of membership. With that not-terribly-painful step, the European Court seems to have exhausted its powers of enforcement.

But matters need not end there. The Court is also responsible for enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights, which reads in part: “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.” Under that provision, the ECHR could order Russia to pay Ukraine compensation for the war damage it’s causing. Unfortunately, as Ivan Lishchyna, an adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice, points out: “There is no international police or international military force that can support any international court judgment.”

As it happens, though, there is a blindingly obvious path to payment. Just as a U.S. municipal court can garnish the wages of a deadbeat dad who won’t pay child support, so the European Court of Human Rights could garnish the gas income of the world’s ultimate deadbeat dad, Vladimir Putin. In its first five weeks, Putin’s war of choice inflicted an estimated $68 billion dollars of damage on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure (its homes, airports, hospitals, and schools), along with other losses worth about $600 billion or three times that country’s total gross domestic product.

But how would Ukraine collect such a sum from Russia? Any Ukrainian party that has suffered damage — whether individuals, cities, or the entire nation — could petition the European Court of Human Rights to enforce its judgement in Ukraine v. Russia (X) by awarding damages. The Court could then instruct the Council of Europe to direct all European corporations buying gas from Gazprom, the Russian state monopoly, to deduct, say, 20% from their regular payments for a Ukraine compensation fund. Since Europe is now paying Gazprom about $850 million daily, such a court-ordered deduction, would allow Putin to pay off his initial $600 billion war-damage debt over the next eight years. As long as his invasion continued, however, those sums would only increase in a potentially crippling fashion.

Though Putin would undoubtedly froth and fulminate, in the end, he would have little choice but to accept such deductions or watch the Russian economy collapse from the lack of gas, oil, or coal revenues. Last month, when he rammed legislation through his parliament requiring Europe’s gas payments in rubles, not euros, Germany refused, despite the threat of a gas embargo. Faced with the loss of such critical revenues sustaining his economy, a chastened Putin called Chancellor Scholz to capitulate.

With billions invested in pipelines leading one-way to Europe, Russia’s petro-dependent economy would have to absorb that war-damage deduction of 20% — possibly more, if the devastation worsened — or face certain economic collapse from the complete loss of those critical energy exports. That might, sooner or later, force the Russian president to end his war in Ukraine. From a pragmatic perspective, that 20% deduction would be a four-way win. It would punish Putin, rebuild Ukraine, avoid a European recession caused by banning Russian gas, and prevent environmental damage from firing up Germany’s coal-fueled power plants.

Paying for Peace

Back in the day of anti-Vietnam War rallies in the United States and nuclear-freeze marches in Europe, crowds of young protesters would sing John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s hope-filled refrain, even though they were aware of just how hopeless it was even as the words left their lips: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” But now, after weeks of trial and error over Ukraine, the world just might have a chance to make the aggressor in a terrible war at least begin to pay a price for bringing such devastating conflict back to Europe.

Perhaps it’s time to finally deliver a bill to Vladimir Putin for a foreign policy that has involved little more than flattening one hapless city after another — from Aleppo and Homs in Syria to Chernihiv, Karkhiv, Kherson, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, and undoubtedly more to come in Ukraine. Once the world’s courts establish such a precedent in Ukraine v. Russia (X), would-be strongmen might have to think twice before invading another country, knowing that wars of choice now come with a prohibitive price tag.     

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ali

    “where the West went wrong in its efforts to end this war” …
    Must be called:
    “where the West succeeded in delaying the end of the war”.

    1. Steve Brown

      I confess I only read the first paragraph of this article, because it marks the author as clueless. He writes,

      As the war in Ukraine heads for its third month amid a rising toll of death and destruction, Washington and its European allies are scrambling, so far unsuccessfully, to end that devastating, globally disruptive conflict. Spurred by troubling images of executed Ukrainian civilians scattered in the streets of Bucha and ruined cities like Mariupol, they are already trying to use many tools in their diplomatic pouches to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to desist. These range from economic sanctions and trade embargoes to the confiscation of the assets of some of his oligarch cronies and the increasingly massive shipment of arms to Ukraine. Yet none of it seems to be working.

      Alfred McCoy’s picture of the war seems to be informed by a total acceptance of State Department press releases. But contrary to what McCoy thinks, it is evident that Washington is not “scrambling … to end that devastating, globally disruptive conflict.” Nor is it “trying to use many tools in their diplomatic pouches” to do so. As we all know, Washington not only deliberately provoked this war, but will be happy to see it continue indefinitely for a variety of reasons.

      Some of those reasons are

      (1) To keep alive the specter of Putin as an arch-demon whose supposed maleficence can justify ever larger defense budgets.

      (2) To kill Norsdtream-2 and make oil and gas prices (and profits) soar.

      (3) To justify punitive sanctions that force Europe to stop relying on the purchase of Russian gas and oil and start relying instead on U.S. gas and oil (at twice the cost). This will

      (4) Make Europe even more economically dependent on U.S. good will and subservient to its geostrategic demands and

      (5) Bleed Russia of money and manpower by prolonging (not ending!) the Ukraine war by shipping weapons that everyone knows will not enable Ukraine to defeat Russia (a military and economic impossibility) but will nevertheless keep Russia tied down in a wasteful and eviscerating conflict at the expense of huge numbers of Russian and Ukraine lives – about which Biden, Nuland, Blinken, Kagan, et al, couldn’t care less in their cynical pursuit of U.S. global hegemony.

      It is no secret (except to those who consume mainstream media) that Washington could end this war in 5 seconds simply by picking up the phone and ordering its puppet Ukraine President (and multimillionaire real estate mogul) to abide by the Minsk2 protocols to which Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany are already signatories.

      In fact, Washington could have done this before Russia’s invasion, which would have prevented it. But that was not Washington’s desire – as Alfred McCoy appears not to understand, because his only source of information seems to be the N.Y. Times, which daily wrings its hands and sheds crocodile tears over “The horror! The horror!” of this war, but continues to trumpet its support for the cynical U.S. policy whose goal is to prolong the war as long as possible.

      Alfred McCoy is clearly a good man with humane instincts. But I don’t see how he can write anything that will help the world escape the impending meltdown being engineered by the frothing ideological nincompoops in the White House.

  2. Louis Fyne

    this piece convientently summarizes in one place the IngSoc party line about Ukraine.

    No mention about Minsk II. Why?

    The War will end when DC-the NYT/NPR crowd comes to their senses……(which I doubt) or when RU controls the entire Black Sea coast to Romania and leaves central and western UA as a rump state for the EU to fix.

    Black Sea coast + inclusion of ethnic Russians + the convientent neutering of RU oligarchs by the West + UA turned into the West’s problem = a reasonable trade for RU for its blood, FX reserves, sanctions and banishment from the West

    1. Robert Hahl

      Sounds like an opportunity for Minsk lll. I think I feel an aphorism coming on: Fool me thrice, shame on….?

    2. Michael

      Quit reading after P2.
      Diplomacy is dead. It doesn’t give US what we want.
      Peace lost in the fog of war.

      1. urdsama


        I feel like he failed or didn’t take rhetoric 101 – essentially don’t tip you hand until the end if you want to make your arguments convincing and avoid claims of bias.

        The second paragraph alone told me he believes all the MSM and western PMC propaganda.

    3. Les H

      The Minsk Agreement is a legal contract between the warring parties which contains areas that Putin’s SMO declaration addressed, such as demilitarization, denazification, and autonomy for the breakaway provinces. It seems that he can point to Ukraine’s breach of the agreement as well as the other signatories who were aiding Ukraine in the buildup to the war and appear to have been exposed to be taking part.

      There’s also the problem with Ukraine having initiated its offensive before the SMO.

    4. JTMcPhee

      Glad to see Operation Mockingbird is still fully operational. I wonder, was this CIA-Nuland blather pay-to-play, and if so, what the consideration amounted to. By the word, maybe?

      Imagine all the “serious people” who believe, or at least mouth, this gobbet of Bernays Sauce…

      Effing stupid human tricks abound.

  3. Sardonia

    Oh. The author thinks Russia will pay 20% of gas/oil income as reparations for damaged property.

    What color is the sky in his world?

    Oh, he’s a professor at UW Madison. The sky is hazy gray of marijuana smoke. Got it.

  4. Yeti

    “After a face-to-face summit with Putin in Geneva that June, President Biden affirmed Washington’s “unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” In a pointed warning to the Russian president, he said,”

    Maybe people should read the link associated with this comment. Pure hipocracy from Biden. As for other links in this article CNN, WP ect. just parrot official US talking points. As for taking Putin to the ICC I’m all for it as long as Biden, Obama, Trump, Blair, Johnston among others stand in the docket along side of him.

    1. marku52

      Yes, this. Start with BushII, Clinton (both!), Albright, Brezinski, Cheney, etc.

      Its a long list.

      I’m reading “Fools’ Crusade” By Johnstone, about NATO in the breakup of Yugoslavia. Appalling amounts of it could be rewritten replacing Serbia with Ukraine. The terribly one sided media, blinkered (Blinkened?) ignorance about the causes of conflict, etc.

      Terrifying, actually.

      1. lance ringquist

        yep, the wars for free trade and regime change, were super charged by nafta billy clinton.

        if the author wants putin, he better give up hundreds perhaps thousands who were in, or are still in our government.

  5. OnceWereVirologist

    Another bonehead who thinks the Russian economy and the Russian military runs on and is dependent on the supply of Euros and US dollars rather than the labour of Russians applied to the natural resources of Russia.

    1. n

      Certainly strange to read this viewpoint in NakedCapitalism.

      Does this professor understand that, rather than accept reduced payments for its gas and oil, Russia could simply sell it to someone else who is going to pay the market price?

      And if he is so interested in using sanctions to stop wars, why hasnt he suggested using sanctions against the US to stop the genocide in Yemen?

      1. William Verick

        Interesting to me is that the time it will take to build LNG terminals in Germany is about the same amount of time it will take to build additional pipelines from Russia to China, both through Heilongjiang Province and through Outer Mongolia. Germany will be substituting cheap Russian pipeline gas for very expensive American or Qatari LNG. That rise in a key production input may have profound effects on Germany’s export-oriented political economy. How will Germany compete with China for exports to the global South when both German labor and energy costs look to be so much higher than China’s? Has anybody asked Volkswagen about this?

    2. pjay

      I came across this article earlier. That the author of The Politics of Heroin could publish such one-sided tripe was shocking, yet it should not have been. Every time I say that “nothing surprises me anymore,” I get slapped across the face. One by one, most of my former academic or journalistic heroes have proven themselves useful idiots, at best. I started to comment, but there are so many distortions in this piece that a reply is not worth the effort. “Stand-up comedy” is a better response.

      The curtains continue to be pulled back and the pretenders exposed.

      1. Alex Cox

        It is puzzling, isn’t it? The Politics of Heroin in South East Asia – an excellent book detailing the amount of money and power the CIA and its cronies were amassing through the heroin trade, and a pointer to what would happen in Afghanistan – was written in 1972 when McCoy was 27 years old. The good professor is now 77 and perhaps not as sharp as he once was. Indeed, the piece is so lacking in context and so full of blather that I wonder if he really wrote the article.

        1. jsn

          After seeing Patrick Armstrong’s pointed self censorship, I expect lots of people are adapting along more practical lines.

          I even noticed in John Mearsheimer’s 2015, “Why Ukraine is the West’s Fault”, systemic word choices and phrasings that elided or obscured extralegal US actions and practices with which, obviously, everyone of importance was aware.

          The formal media image has broken into a kaleidoscope, and this is one example: parts of McCoy’s worldview are rational and well thought through, others, fractured reflections of reflections of reflections. As the center weakens, this fracturing of views is increasing creating a sparkle-fog where the only thing you can see clearly is distractions.

          Or as John Randolph put it 200 years ago, “like rotten mackerel by moonlight, it sparkles and it stinks!’

    3. RonR

      I just hope he reads these comments. Do you think he might come to the conclusion he is not living in the real world!!

  6. Polar Socialist

    Oh dear. At the start I noted two interesting books to check out, but the good professor lost me completely by the third sentence. Since when have sanctions, embargoes, confiscations and arms shipment been tools of diplomacy? To me they all spell the very failure of diplomacy.

    And how, pray tell, can the West coerce Russia to pay reparations if it can’t force Russia to stop the invasion?

    On the other hand, there are already promises to rebuild Mariupol back better. May have something to do with Donetsk Republic having good relations with Russia.

    1. Norm de plume

      Thank you for confirming my decision not to continue after the first two sentences, which contained respectively a flat out falsehood and mention of an atrocity carefully unattributed but in context clearly blamed on the Russians when it was almost certainly elements of the Ukrainian forces.
      That third sentence completes the opening trifecta with its characteristic liberal appropriation of a word like ‘diplomacy’ for something more like anti-diplomacy – ‘journalism’ and ‘public health’ come to mind as other examples of this trait.

      1. T_Reg

        You were smarter than me. I read the first two paragraphs, and spent a few minutes researching the Syria claims. I did learn a little bit. I think of cluster munitions as carrying a copious load of anti-personnel weapons, which means they’re specifically designed to kill people. The RBK-500 referenced as being used in Ukraine carries anti-tank munitions. Also, during a “month-long bombing campaign” in Aleppo, allegedly HUNDREDS of people were killed. Even assuming those people were killed by Russia/Syria action, that seems a small number for a month of bombing.

        1. T_Reg

          Darn it. The RBK-500 was claimed to have been used in Syria. In an old article from Bellingcat, no less.

    2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Lost me at The West Is Trying To End The Conflict.


      The academics sit in their ivory towers while the World burns ?

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      Mariupol will not be built back better if President Manchin has anything to say about it.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I don’t think that either of the Donbass Republics have a Parliamentarian so there is that.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Would it be too early to point out the flaw in the good professors brilliant idea? If the EU purchases say for example, ten thousand cubic meters of gas but only pays for 80% of it and announces to Russia that the remaining 20% of the payment is being diverted into a reparations for the Ukraine, that that will not be the end of it. Russia will turn around and say that they are a capitalist country and not a charity. Consequently, Russia will only ship 80% of the contracted gas as that is all the payment that they have received. And payment in Rubles please.

    I think that I understand the format of this article. It is not really a serious piece. When you read it, it sounds like that it was sourced from CNN, MSNBC and White House briefings (or do I repeat myself?). So this tells me that the audience for this article is for his fellow PMC members. He is no way going to risk his professional position nor his social position by telling some hard truths. After all, it is the pioneers that get the arrows in the back. So this article is really a way of social signalling his status within his fellow academic class and shows that he will never be guilty of ‘wrongthink’.

    1. Sardonia

      Yes. I think it’s one of those articles that Yves and Lambert like to post just so we can all have fun taking target practice at it. Sorta like how some Country Folk will string up a dead animal they found so they can invite their friends over to drink beer on their back porch and fire their rifles at it.

      “C’mon, Cletus. Anyone can hit the belly. See if you can shoot one of his eyeballs out!”

    2. The Fall from the Top is the Hardest

      Even though I completely agree with the comedy gold stuff here, this article made me genuinely sad. McCoy wrote about CIAs radical pragmatism and its dealings with the drug cartels in South East Asia, laying bare an important angle how you should understand the Afghanistan war: CIA protecting and earning money from the heroin production chain and making sure that no EU country will crack down on the clan criminals because CIA needs buyers of drugs too as well as understanding that CIA helps drugging its own population with the help of Mexican drug cartels.
      I have admired him for that but now this…

    3. Telee

      Rev Kev, you are so right with your comment. This “Professor” is merely regurgitating the US official talking points which bear little relation to the actual reality of this situation. No mention of trying to negotiate a cease fire. The US’s primary goal with Russia is regime change. Also of great importance is to increase business for the defense industry and the fossil fuel industry. Why would NC allow itself to aid corporate news and amplify the Biden administration’s deceptive propaganda? Disappointing.

      1. John Zelnicker

        Telee – NC occasionally posts such pieces to give the commentariat an opportunity to sharpen their critical analysis skills, and for us to see how some of the supposed intellectuals of the establishment are making their arguments.

      2. Susan the other

        NC knows we will pick this apart. It is so out of character for McCoy that I feel it is intentionally so – to make it more than obvious. He doesn’t even mention NATO – the whole point of the war. And as far as toeing the line on US policy – he’s doing no such thing – he’s avoiding it like the plague, just like Tony Blinken. Blinken was so terrified of publishing our de-facto position, a veritable declaration of war, in response to Lavrov’s demand questions that he (Blinken) sent our answer off to Spain to be published by some left-over pocket of fascism there. Philip K. Dick is smiling. Nobody in this PMC orchestrated disaster will stand up and take credit. Which is most likely the reason Biden got “elected.”

    4. Thuto

      It’s slim pickings re: opportunities for career advancement outside the herd Rev. No one wants to be culled so writing articles like this is a form of “peacocking” to prove one’s loyalty and to remain a member in good standing of the PMC.

  8. JohnA

    The good professor is looking at the conflict through the wrong end of a telescope. And seemingly with the same kind of eye Nelson looked through with at the Battle of Copenhagen.

    The only way the war will end is with the surrender of Ukraine, the acceptance that Crimea and the East have gone from Ukraine forever, and Ukraine adopts neutral status. That is what will happen, the only questions are how many needless deaths, primarily of Ukrainian forces, will it take, and how much of a rump will remain Ukrainian territory. Unless of course, the US/Nato escalates to direct confrontation, then all bets are off about what world will remain.

  9. NYG

    The conclusion Russia will capitulate to a 20% garnishment charge is flawed. It is based on the erroneous statement that when Germany refused to pay in rubles Putin unconditionally capitulated to payment in euros.

    The fact is that the following workaround was agreed upon:
    a. “payments would continue to be made exclusively in euros and transferred as usual to Gazprom Bank, which is not affected by the sanctions,”
    b. “The bank would then convert the money into rubles.”

    I would wager that if a garnishment is imposed on Russia, Germany and Russia will find another workaround.

    1. OnceWereVirologist

      Russia doesn’t recognize the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights so any garnishment would have to be applied to the funds of the European gas buyer pre-payment which seems to me functionally equivalent to a 20% tariff on imported Russian gas – impacting the European consumer not the Russians.

    2. Gregorio

      I’m guessing that most of Ukraine’s reconstruction will be paid for with IMF loans, denominated in dollars, and repaid with “structural adjustment.” Win, win! The big question is, who’s gonna pony up the $2billion a month Zelensky’s demanding to keep his country running for the duration of the proxy war? Maybe we could start a GoFundMe where all the Ukraine war cheerleaders can donate.

      1. Polar Socialist

        I’m guessing, cynically, that most of the actual reconstruction will be paid for in rubles. Whatever the remaining stub will receive from IMF will likely disappear to the same place all the money meant for reconstructing Afghanistan and Iraq went to.

        Maybe some day we can then read from Virgin Island or Jersey papers where it really ended up.

      2. NYG

        The power to dictate to the West has certainly inflated not just the Zelensky ego but the Ukrainian government, and diminished the US. The US complies like an underling with the Zelensky demand to come to Kiev and make sure that you don’t come empty handed. Come with money and weapons systems even though its well known that Ukraine magically consumes a month’s worth of everything in a week. Hail to the leader!

        And the Ukraine government has already laid sole claim to Russia’s seized money and the money and property seized from Russian oligarchs. Send it because Ukraine says so!

  10. Thuto

    Dear oh dear, If this historian is incapable of delivering an objective analysis of a current event, I shudder to think what sort of historical analysis he’ll give in 10 years. As regards the Ukrainian Marshall Plan he’s agitating for, well, that will be lining a lot of oligarch pockets as the spoils of war are divvied up.

    1. Ignacio

      The professor is here opining as some Mr. McCoy not as Professor McCoy, historian. The fact that he is a professor is just an accident. For what I have read apart from John Lennon he is not giving here many historical lessons, not the slightest historical context to current events.

  11. ambrit

    What I did not see in the screed is a mechanism of enforcement.
    Sanctions often involve the restriction of access to economic inputs; such as the embargo on Japan’s access to iron and steel precursors before WW-2. Here, we are dealing with a nation state that already has ‘access’ to all the precursor items it needs to function, as a nation state. Russia does not need to be part of the international financial system. At base, in this instance, sanctions are counterproductive. Just ask all of the freezing Germans next winter.
    I would class this exercise in wishful thinking in with the original League of Nations scheme. It looked good on paper, until all of the greedy and vengeful politicians from the ‘winning’ side got into the act.

    1. AGR

      Full disclosure, I’ve been bingeing on Professor Mearsheimer, since he was linked in NC Comments at the beginning of this tragedy. He has consistently argued that in a framework of “realpolitik”, survival trumps legality and morality as a matter of “realism”, and in a context of international relations “might makes right”… ie, pecking order, and by extension “enforcement”, is determined by relative power.

      Then there’s the seemingly ever implied struggle between local/regional autonomy and imperial heteronomy.

      1. ambrit

        Exactly. “Realpolitik” is a good analogy.
        If the good Professor’s musings are an example of what passes for policy thinking in today’s governing elites in the West, then we are in serious trouble.
        Magical Thinking is not an apprropriate methodology for running a “real world” enterprise of any sort.

        1. orlbucfan

          Most of what passes for policy thinking here in the States is megalomania, out of control greed, and outright stupidity. I’m sure both the Putin and Xi cabals are familiar with all three.

  12. bassmule

    …President Biden mockingly called “the rubble,”

    Is there anyone in his administration who can convince him to shut up? Apparently not.

  13. Donald

    It’s weird reading someone who should know better talking about human rights as though any of the governments involved actually cared about them. I don’t know if any of this would work. I am more interested in the mentality. This isn’t about ending the war. It is about punishing Russian crimes.

    As Chomsky never stops pointing out, if we cared about human rights violations we would go after our own government first. We would change our own behavior and punish our own war criminals. But we don’t. Instead we go after the crimes of our enemies. I sometimes still see people who claim “ well we have to start somewhere and this will set a precedent”. No it won’t. It is just the same posturing hypocrisy Westerners always engage in. The precedent was set the first time in history some murdering warlord denounced the crimes of some other warlord.

    1. John Wright

      The USA has consistently had that the international rules don’t apply so I’m surprised that McCoy believes international courts would extract damages/convictions from Russia.


      “President Trump addressed the UN General Assembly stating that the “United States will provide no support or recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.””

      McCoy mentions reparations..

      Per, the USA compensated the 32,689 claims against the 7 billion 9/11 victims’ fund at about 215k per claim.

      And these were NOT all death benefits as the initial death count of 9/11 was 2977 vs the 32,689 claims against the fund.

      If the USA compensated Iraq only for the estimated 200k to 1million deaths at the same rate that the 9/11 victims’ families were paid, the USA’s bill would be as high as 215E3 x 1E6 = 215 billion.

      Then there is the damage done to the Iraq infrastructure by the USA instigated “Shock and Awe” and long term prior sanctions against a country that had not invaded/seriously threatened the USA.

      it is difficult for me to see that the USA can righteously lecture Russia on ethical/proper behavior.

      1. Alex Cox

        As a result of the contra war in the 1980s, the International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled that the US had encouraged indiscriminate violence against Nicaraguan civilians, had caused massive damage to the economy by sabotage and mining the country’s harbors, and had attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government.

        Nicaragua sued for billions in damages. The US ignored the decision and paid nothing.

        It’s a shame that McCoy, who used to know this, has apparently forgotten.

  14. Rob Urie

    The point was made during the Iraq war that those who got their news from the New York Times knew less that was true about that war than those who spent their time drinking beer and watching Beverly Hillbillies reruns on television.

    With respect to Ukrainian self-determination, here is U.S. State Dept. rep Victoria Nuland in 2014 selecting the new government of Ukraine.

    Here is the Chinese Foreign Ministry stating that the Chinese government won’t join the U.S. in condemning Russia because the U.S. is at fault for events in Ukraine.

    1. John Wright

      That Biden found it necessary to bring Nuland into his administration was informative.

      From a year ago.


      “One of them, Victoria Nuland, a former Barack Obama administration official who got caught interfering in Ukrainian politics when her mobile phone was intercepted by the Russians, is slated to be the third-highest ranking official at the State Department. ”

      “She will have a lot to say about Ukraine and the best one can say about Nuland’s outlook is that she hates the Russians. Not much to cheer for if you are looking for negotiation, but a great team member if you want to go to war with Russia.”

  15. Safety First

    I believe the most appropriate response here was encapsulated by the judge in “My Cousin Vinny”: “Are you on drugs?!”

    I will say, however, that some of the evidentiary links the piece includes are…fascinating. For example, the Oryx website purporting to post photographic evidence of Russian vehicle losses (found in the line “becoming sitting ducks for Ukrainian missiles”). Randomly clicking through the photos, one often encounters: absolutely no identifying marks or insignia (so it is impossible to tell whether one is looking at a Russian or a Ukrainian vehicle, or even the exact type of tank in some cases); extreme close-up shots that leave out all context (i.e. we are told that the vehicle is destroyed or captured, but cannot visually establish either); at least several vidcaps showing a tank continuing to operate after taking a hit (so not really “destroyed”, though labelled as such), in one instance in formation with other tanks; and at least a few cases of mislabels (e.g. one of the “BMP” photos looks like an assault gun).

    Oh, and the overwhelming majority of the photos do not seem to show the vehicle in question sitting in any sort of mud. But that’s really just me quibbling.

    Sadly, lostarmour seems to be down or dead, so I cannot link to what I would call a good example of documenting vehicle losses (visual context, identifying markings, tie to a location, et cetera). Still, a few minutes of fun.


    On the article itself. It seems that the man’s bibliography (, if this is the same McCoy (the real McCoy!), has very little bearing on the topics raised in this article, military or economic. This, in turn, explains, for example, the utterly fantastical solution to the problem of intransigent Russians that is proposed – to have the ECHR (!) mandate that EU corporations, err, unilaterally pay the Russians 20% less than their actual gas bill. Which the Russians would accept, of course, because they have…absolutely no other choice whatever. And no other buyers for their gas either. Kindly ignore the giant panda standing in the back looking inconspicuous.

    The only real question is what the man’s game really is. It is perfectly possible that this is something of a self-marketing exercise – positioning oneself as a sort of contrarian to draw extra attention while still toeing the party line, if that makes sense.

    1. Michaelmas

      Safety First: It seems that the man’s bibliography (, if this is the same McCoy (the real McCoy!), has very little bearing on the topics raised in this article

      Yes. It’s a little strange that Professor McCoy, who in his long life has written some relatively truthful and critical books about the American empire and its crimes, should produce this piece of comedy gold.

      Nevertheless, comedy gold it is.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        I think that the professor has been hanging out with Jeffrey St. Clair. They drink from the same cup.

      2. pjay

        The same question keeps gnawing at me. *Why* would Alfred McCoy do something like this at the end of a distinguished career? Perhaps he thinks it will cement his reputation among those who matter. It has certainly damaged his legacy for me – though of course I don’t matter. Perhaps even more disillusioning is that he actually seems to believe what he is saying. The absolute absence of any nuance or critical consciousness on the subjects he is discussing is so striking, especially given much of his life’s work, that one begins to wonder about dementia – or various conspiracy scenarios. Then again there is a lot of this going around, so maybe some very contagious mystery illness is involved. Noted liberal and “progressive” academics seem especially susceptible.

      3. anon y'mouse

        how do any of us know that he actually wrote it, and didn’t merely accept to have it put above his name?

        Udo Ulfkotte’s claims come to mind, and i was watching a presentation by a former pharma researcher who claimed that he had been offered a fully written paper to present at a conference if he “didn’t already have one ready”, which he later saw published under a colleague’s name.

        many pardons that i don’t have this pharma researcher’s name handy, as i read a ton of internet stuff and am not always good about my bookmarking as i move from device to device (resistant to sharing everything to the great Cloud). i will try to track down this researcher. the main thrust of his presentation was that he was doing some statistical debunking on most research and saying that it was essentially a lie that many drugs (psychopharmaceutical types) have any noticeably statistical effect at all.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps it is Swiftian satire too subtle for literal-minded people like me to realize that it is Swiftian satire too subtle for literal-minded people like me to realize it.

  16. danpaco

    The first sentence, “…Washington and its European allies are scrambling, so far unsuccessfully, to end that devastating, globally disruptive conflict” , pure gold!!!

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Yes, that’s when I stopped reading.

      McCoy’s “The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia” is an important book, but it’s half-a-century old, and the professor has sadly become a vehicle for endowed neoliberal horses#*×.

      1. Michael

        Read that in high school. Eye-opener at 18.
        HSBC was the villain of the day.
        Thanks for pointing out the connection.
        How far he fell.

  17. hemeantwell

    Nothing to add to the criticisms above except a worry that Tomdispatch has gone Borg.

  18. Samuel Conner

    > With surprising speed, on day five of the invasion, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at Strasbourg ruled in the case of Ukraine v. Russia (X), ordering the Kremlin “to refrain from military attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including residential premises, emergency vehicles and… schools and hospitals” — a clear directive that Moscow’s military continues to defy with its devastating rocket and artillery strikes.

    This feels somewhat “off key” to me. It’s my understanding (admittedly, mediated by sources that are themselves vulnerable to the charge of bias) that the strikes on civilian objects are being done against civilian objects converted by the UA defenders into legitimate military targets — since occupied by UA defenders for use as firing and observation points.

    Is TomDispatch drinking the MSM KoolAid? Or perhaps I’m drinking SakerAid.

  19. Alyosha

    Oh wow … I needed this kind of comedy on a Monday morning, early in WWIII. Just like Americans are suddenly horrified by the brutality of war when someone else does it, now we’re going to be treated to how the world should operate under a set of international laws that everyone is held to? Interesting. Odd that the professor doesn’t mention that the unilateral sanctions the US applies to anyone it’s upset with are illegal under the standing international laws he’s appealing to, as they are an act of war.

  20. veronius

    Two big missteps right off the bat: A) the implication the Bucha atrocities were Russia’s doing when that claim is seriously open to question, and B) the claim that the Russians wanted to take Kiev but were defeated, which other commentators with credible military experience, such as Ritter and Mcgregor, have contradicted. Hard to keep reading beyond that point without wondering what other RightThink this author has accepted.

    1. veronius

      …plus the ridiculous idea that Washington is ‘scrambling to end the conflict.’ Please.

  21. Acacia

    Welp, after this outing, I guess that nice copy of McCoy’s Shadows of the American Century will remain on my bookshelf unread… maybe for quite a long while.

    1. ZenBean

      I think Shadows of the American Century is worth a read. McCoy’s analysis regarding the Ukraine is laughable though, I have no idea what happened to him.

    2. Michaelmas

      I guess that nice copy of McCoy’s Shadows of the American Century will remain on my bookshelf unread

      Strangely enough, that book is actually quite good, especially regarding US brutality in the Philippines.

    3. Louis Fyne

      That book was written in the pre-woke Before Times.

      give it a chance. McCoy, Chomsky, Taleb, their brains have been hijacked by the NYT oped pages

  22. Carolinian

    An NC op-ed?

    Though Putin would undoubtedly froth and fulminate, in the end, he would have little choice but to accept such deductions or watch the Russian economy collapse from the lack of gas, oil, or coal revenues.

    McCoy doesn’t seem to have a very firm grasp of the siituation in that Russia has made it quite plain that they will sell their energy products elsewhere if they don’t get paid. It’s Europe that is over a barrel and a large portion of the rest of the planet that is staying out of this conflict. Or at least that’s what I’ve been reading here.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      But now they won’t be able to sell to “white” people. This is the disease that infects Western elites. They may make exceptions, but the idea of say India buying oil astounds them. It’s not the 60’s anymore. India is a major power.

      Then the whole premise of the article is proposing a solution the Russians will fall for.

    2. Safety First

      I think there is a more fundamental problem here, not limited to the Ukraine conflict.

      It is both my subjective observation, and the observation of at least some left-wingers over in Russia (the ones with Youtube presence, at least), that Western academics, analysts and experts of all stripes seem to know or understand exceedingly little of Russian economy, history, social trends, et cetera. Even well-meaning ones – the other day I started listening to Scott Ritter’s interview on the “Unregistered” podcast, and had to kill it after 15-20 minutes because he went completely off the reservation when talking about the Bolsheviks and the October Revolution.

      I suspect part of the problem is that much, if not most, of the relevant source material, is in Russian, whereas the stuff available in English ranges from mediocre to downright appalling. One suspects there is also the heritage of the Cold War at play, not to mention the racial slash ethnic stereotypes (some of which, miraculously, seem to coincide exactly with what one reads in Wehrmacht memoirs, e.g. Von Mellenthin’s).

      But basically, getting back to the issue of the Russian economy – yes, it is facing a considerable problem at the moment, but this is a problem that has absolutely nothing to do with oil and natural gas exports (which in any case can always be managed in some fashion), or in a lack of eurodollars. The largest issue at the moment is that a lot of inputs in various sectors of the Russian economy – machine parts and machine tools, microcontrollers, even agricultural seeds – had previously been imported, to a significant extent from the EU (e.g. Germany). In other words, AvtoVAZ makes “Russian” cars, but parts of the engine or transmission or whatever come from overseas; no imports means no functional engines means no new cars, for example. At her recent confirmation hearing, Nabiullina stated point blank that right now businesses are burning through their pre-conflict stocks, but at some point these will run out, and then you’ll either need to circumvent the sanctions somehow (raising prices, undoubtedly), or try to rebuild domestic manufacturing chains (far easier said than done). It does not mean Russia will starve or anything, but it can certainly hit both businesses and consumers, and potentially quite hard. And if I were trying to destabilize Russia with the view of executing a regime change, that’s the pressure point I would be going after as aggressively as possible…

      Instead we get this McCoy individual and the 20% garnishment scheme. I wonder if he is even aware of things like the US giving South Korea an exemption from tech exports to Russia, which makes absolutely zero sense from the US standpoint but I guess Samsung’s profits are sacrosanct or some such…[See

      1. Paradan

        Russia is right next door to China, the largest manufacturing center in the world. Critical inputs can be bought from them till domestic chains are rebuilt.

  23. Mikel

    “…it’s already worth considering where the West went wrong in its efforts to end this war, while exploring whether anything potentially effective is still available to slow the carnage..”

    More effort, especially this side of the pond, is going toward expanding war.
    The Bidens were really in deep with the gas companies. Relationship rivals his longterm servitude to bankstas. I can hear them now, “Ole Joe will get our sales up, yessireee.”

    “In January 2021, only weeks after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Moscow began threatening to attack Ukraine unless Washington and its European allies agreed that Kyiv could never join NATO…”

    And Putin and the Putin administration had a kneejerk reaction to the election of Biden.

    I see less ideological rivalry in this West/Russia/China situation and more just flat out resource war.

  24. steven

    Beyond the blatant, in-your-face hypocrisy of the NATO (i.e. US) response to Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and the lapdog subservience of the MSM and the West’s academic elites in stirring up war fever – this time with an ‘enemy’ who can really fight back, what really disturbs me is the US culpability in loosing the dogs of war. If Russia wanted to ‘give peace a chance’, when should the clock have started ticking? When NATO advanced ‘one inch beyond its current boundaries’ and Russia asked it to stop? With Maiden? Minsk II?

    And what about all those Star Wars ABMs placed in the newly conquered (er, I mean ‘liberated’) former Soviet republics? Anyone remember a revered former US president who threaten to blow up the world if the Soviets/Russians didn’t remove missiles 90 miles from the US? As for Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling, take a look at Operation Giant Lance ( The West’s elites are doing such a terrible job ‘managing consent’ (er, I mean defending democracy) it is painful to even look at the papers or turn on TV – and that includes the Pentagon Broadcasting System and its Frontline.

  25. britzklieg

    What a load of crap, especially the notion of a fierce and noble Ukraine humbling a near-defeated Russian army and backed by a western coalition doing all in its power to end the conflict. It’s a desperate, malign (and repeated everywhere) rhetorical flourish, ghoulishly encouraging to their deaths the credulous conscripts sided with the un-mentioned nazis in a battle that was lost before it began – as if Ukraine could ever have defeated Russia.

    And here we can see what’s happening in NYC – that great bastion of freedom and liberty (and which elected mayors Giuliani twice and Bloomberg 3 times, and now, after the feckless DeBlasio Adams)

    “Pro Ukraine demonstration. Manhatten, New York. Attendees start chanting ‘AZOV’ in support of neo nazi battalion”

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Yes, and liberal bastions like Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side gave a majority if the votes to Giuliani and Bloomberg, so of course they’d signal their solidarity with Ukraine by eating at Veselka. After all, nothing says “values” like your consumer choices, right?

      1. Safety First

        I have never, ever, heard of this Veselka thing before, but now that I am looking through their dinner menu, err…there are not a lot of Ukrainian dishes there. Or Russian. Or Slavic. Looks more like a typical American cuisine with maybe a half-dozen “regional flavour” dishes to draw in customers looking for something “exotic white”, and even those are not really executed in the traditional style. And, in at least one spot, misspelled (it should read “holubtsi”, not “holubsti”). And no pork fat, either!!!

        On the other hand, I am impressed by the amount of sauerkraut and, of all things, chicken schnitzels. Perhaps this IS a Ukrainian menu from back when the Germans were visiting…

  26. Darthbobber

    If it were an academic paper, it would be entirely plagiarism, as its just a cut-and-paste of the same propaganda that has already appeared over countless other names.

  27. redleg

    The author is suffering from a delusion of adequacy.
    Too many big things bigly wrong with this to waste any time discussing them.

  28. Cat Burglar

    He’s being a good liberal — appealing for international adjudication by internationally recognized courts. Based on the other stuff he’s written, I am going to accept this was written in good faith, as an attempt to think through his position in light of the war in Ukraine.

    But his position is hedged around with factual problems — he seems to discount the unreliability of almost all war reporting on Ukraine, and has not done a serious investigation of the Syria war. The mainstream inputs seem to dictate mainstream outputs, and that allows him to avoid an investigation of how the war began.

    He wants to start enforcing international law right now. Is there a statute of limitations on war crimes?

  29. veronius

    I think it might really work as a pop-up book. That seems to be the level of intelligence it’s aimed at.

  30. Peter Nightingale

    There are several reasons why the war on Ukraine gets attention, while the war on the poor gets none. First of all, the war on Ukraine allows the U.S. to increase its sales of weapons and fossil fuels, but the poor across the globe are not a good market for any of that. Secondly, victims of poverty die unheard and unseen; they do not produce gripping pictures on the news.

    This seems to be why the evil of social murder—Friedrich Engels’s term for creating or tolerating lethal circumstances— is vastly underrated and why there is little attention for reports like this one Behind the numbers: a dataset exploring key financing and fiscal policies in the IMF’s COVID-19 loans, aka the Washington Consensus.

    As to the connection between the war in Ukraine and sale of weapons and fossil fuels, there is this September 1, 2021, press release by the White House with two telltale sentences among the obligatory rhetoric about democracy, human rights and a green transition:

    1) “The U.S. and Ukrainian governments support efforts to increase capacity for gas supplies to Ukraine from diversified sources;” and
    2) “Natural gas remains an important part of the EU energy system in the green transition, including by ensuring its carbon intensity decreases over time.”

    Note that carbon intensity, a well-known industry greenwash concept, may decrease while greenhouse gas emissions increase; carbon intensity is the ratio of emissions to energy produced.

    It’s about a decade since fracked gas was exposed as worse for the climate than coal, and yet the U.S. is still traveling and accelerating on the crack infested bridge to nowhere.

    20 million people displaced on average every year since 2008 because of extreme weather events? Never mind; they are not part of the bottom line of the industrialized world. Look for “Page TS-14” in this small collection of “lowlights” of one of the latest the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Food insecurity and threats to the livelihoods of millions across the globe? Equally irrelevant; look for “Page TS-13” of the same collection.

    Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Here are observations of Philip Alston about extreme poverty in the U.S. Old stuff and certainly not news, but does that justify why only very few pay attention despite the fact that the pandemic exacerbated the problem?

    There obviously is something fundamentally wrong with our ethical system.

  31. js

    Lambert — I think this article needs a little more of a disclaimer/warning than pointing out American hypocrisy. Something on the lines of — here’s what the idiots on the US side are thinking.

    How to end the war?

    Stop sending a bunch of weapons to a military organization run by neo-fascists who overthrow an elected government, force half of their population to be 2nd class citizens (banning the Russian language), spend 10 years bombing two areas that weren’t okay with that, stonewalls on negotiating a lasting peace, prepares for an offensive and then whines about their opponent punching them first, empties its prisons and hands convicted murderers machine guns as a parting gift, kills their own negotiators, uses civilian as shields, and stages atrocities.

    Did I miss anything?

    When was the last time sending a ton of weapons did anything other than increase the damage? Forget the morality of it for a second — when did it change the outcome? Maybe Israel in 1967 — the year I was born — when Israel attacked first and we are a-okay with that.

  32. lance ringquist

    i could not get past a few paragraphs. the world must look very tiny from his very very high perch, looking down through the clouds at the tiny specs.

    i bet he is a free trader, because he believes it helps the poor and helps keep the peace.

    1. tegnost

      It’s not a very long or hard read and you learn terms like “tool pouch”, and that you’d better get out and rotate your truck tires or you’ll have a blowout…I say just gut it out to the end…

      As it happens, though, there is a blindingly obvious path to payment. Just as a U.S. municipal court can garnish the wages of a deadbeat dad who won’t pay child support, so the European Court of Human Rights could garnish the gas income of the world’s ultimate deadbeat dad, Vladimir Putin. In its first five weeks, Putin’s war of choice inflicted an estimated $68 billion dollars of damage on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure (its homes, airports, hospitals, and schools), along with other losses worth about $600 billion or three times that country’s total gross domestic product.

      There’s some deadbeats over in DC that need to go take a look in the mirror

      1. Eclair

        Re: Putin as ‘deadbeat dad.’

        Hmmm, I prefer the analogy of NATO as ‘annoying neighbor.’ Back in the 90’s, living in Orange County, California, on the less fashionable borders of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, our unemployed neighbor began a business fabricating garage doors in his garage. The way the closely-packed houses were configured, his garage faced our bedroom window. So, at night we were treated to bright lights, drilling and sawing noises, and, then paint fumes wafting through our open windows (no air conditioning, alas.) We figured, guy’s gotta make a living and went with it for a while, hoping he would find other employment.

        Then, he began parking the industrial-sized trailer on the lawn between our houses, half on his property, half on ours. I asked him, nicely, if he would refrain from doing so, and he, basically, told me to butt out. Meanwhile, the lights, noises and fumes continued. So, one night, I took the hose, laid it down under the trailer, but on our side of the property line, and turned on the water, just a little. By morning, the ground, lovely SoCal clay, was soaked and boggy; the trailer had sunk to mid-wheel hubs. Neighbor was furious, cursed me six ways to Sunday, but hauled out his trailer and parked it elsewhere.

        I was not happy with this ‘solution,’ but sometimes turning the other cheek leads to people taking advantage of one’s good nature. Not everyone is nice. The neighbor sold his house a few month’s later.

  33. Jade Bones

    Some few years ago I read a review of a book written long ago but suppressed for decades. The premise of the book was that it was a consortium of British industrialists and power brokers that fomented WWI. The article claimed that this was common knowledge among those paying attention at the time but as the Brits and their Allies won (at a terrible cost) the narrative became what we are familiar with.
    I lost the title of the book in a computer crash but, be that as it may, this essay brought it back to mind as I wondered who will end up writing the “published for public consumption” history of this war? Peace

  34. doug

    I guess, unlike Hudson, Nick C, etc, the author will not be commenting to explain/refute?
    I hope someone allows him to see the comments…
    Maybe he will show up with a rebuttal?

    1. Barnes

      To what avail? The article is delusional beyond comprehension.

      In principle I would like to see wars of aggression being thoroughly prosecuted but it’d be a good idea to include those wars “the west” waged, as well.

  35. Bart Hansen

    I came here at 7 o’clock and found no comments. After reading it I considered leaving
    ‘Yikes!’ but moved on to the Links.

  36. Robin Kash

    I confess to reading McCoy’s article all the way through. I wondered if opening paragraphs reciting the US govt lines might be a setup for a course correction.
    Russian aims never included taking Kyiv or regime change. Demilitarizing Ukraine and its deNazification were at the top of the list. Securing eastern and southern Ukraine involves safety of Russian-speakers in Donbas and assuring that the Russian naval base at Sevastopol stays in Russian control. Extending control to Odesa reduces what remains of Ukraine to a landlocked, commodity-exporting, militarily-depleted dependency of the EU. Russia controls Ukraine without the hassle and expense of occupation. Plus, it gives Russia an industrialized shipping point for China’s Belt and Road initiative.
    When the dust settles gas pipelines to the EU will flow again. It makes no sense for the EU to scramble for and foot the expense of gas and oil over the next few years when the supply is readily available with established routing and close-to-hand. This will could well draw Germany and Russia closer. A terrible consequence for the US, as Michael Hudson has assayed some weeks ago. A Russian-German-Chinese alliance would be a death knell to NATO.

  37. LawnDart

    I have not seen this cited on/by NC, so this source may offer more depth to discussions regarding the conflict in Ukraine:

    I’m Russian. I’m one of those millions of Russians who was born and lived the whole life in Ukraine. School, institute, army…
    From 1999 to 2018 I was the employee of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU).
    On my website I will expose the crimes and lies of the villains who seized power after the Maidan events.
    Welcome to Vasily Prozorov Investigation Center.

    On Telegram:

  38. deplorado

    ” the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at Strasbourg” – this is the same court that

    1) reprimanded the Ukrainian parliament for voting in a law that restricted the sale of agricultural land to foreign entities (apparently for violating the sacred right of persons to sell their property), and

    2) ruled that a Ukr law that limited the circumstances in which one was allowed to change their patronymic was limiting human rights, but did not bother object (to my knowledge) to the forced recent en-mass Ukrainization of names of non-Ukrainian miinorities- Russian, Hungarian, Moldovan, Bulgarian etc. For example, Andrey mandatorily became Andriy, Aleksandr -> Oleksandr, Elena -> Olena, and didnt object to the closure of minority schools across Ukraine that existed even in Tsarist times, like the Bulgarian high school in Bolgrad founded in the 1880ies…

  39. britzklieg

    Craig Murray’s most recent:

    Putin is merely following British and American example. The failure of liberals like Tisdall (whom I generally respect) to acknowledge this I find infuriating. I condemn the invasion of Ukraine and I have no hesitation in calling Putin a war criminal. However for precisely the same reasons so are Bush and Blair. It astonishes me how very few people in the media are prepared, in the current emergency, to acknowledge this. That is perhaps understandable if not readily excusable. But to claim like Tisdall that Putin’s actions are somehow unique and precedent-setting goes beyond omission to active propaganda and lying.

    1. Soredemos

      I’m going to just fully commit, go out on a limb, and say that the Russian invasion is actually justified. Putin isn’t a war criminal unless you can demonstrate that 1. the war itself is unjustified and/or was launched based on false premises, or 2. that specific actions in the war were intentional violations of the laws of war. ‘War crime’ actually has a legal definition; it isn’t just a vague insult.

      1. britzklieg

        I agree and have issues with Murray’s incessant need to demonize Putin even when he makes important points as the one linked. He explained his bias a bit in an earlier essay and much seems based on family history which is always hard to overcome. He has long stated a certain disgust with Putin. But his willingness to call out “liberal” propaganda and lies is notable and I’ll keep reading him.

        Many commenters in the previous essay were dismayed by the rhetoric and I appreciated that he allowed those comments uncensored

  40. worldblee

    The ripostes from readers to this article and its myopic point of view reaffirm my faith in the NC readership. Thank you for staying sane, people!

    1. MarkT

      Agreed. Thank you to all the commenters above. It’s good to know that I am not insane. Well, at least not completely, yet ;)

  41. Simple John

    I continue to marvel at how “adults” trade their childrens’ futures for the chance to play war.
    How do we combat the climate crisis without China, India, Russia and the U.S. trusting each other that great power war is obsolete?

  42. Rainlover

    I’m sad that this article was posted on Tom Dispatch, formerly one of my go-to websites for what I considered unbiased reporting. I re-worked my news bookmarks the other day based on the deterioration of many of the websites and blogs I used to visit daily. TD is gone as is Counterpunch where the hateful fulminations of Eric Draitser and St. Clair’s support for this war would embarrass Andrew Cockburn (I hope). Even Patrick Cockburn has joined the anti-Putin chorus. Sigh. Even my marxmail feed is infested with uncritical support for Ukraine although a few holdouts can be spotted at times. Not worth wading through the dreck for the occasional gold nugget.

    I wanted to quit reading this article after the first paragraph, but I forced myself to continue through it. It’s remarkable how Russia’s multiple pre-war offers to negotiate over the European security situation are simply unmentionable. McCoy’s only apparent solution is to punish the Russians. That worked so well with the Germans after WWI. A therapist friend of mine and I discussed the state of the world yesterday evening. We concluded that our situation calls for leaders with generative psychological development, that is wisdom and discernment, of which we can find none. Sigh.

    So many well-regarded journalists have besmirched their neutrality credentials during this conflict. That’s why I continue to support NC and its commentariat where I find well-reasoned arguments based on research. Thank you all.

    1. Simple John

      I wish I had written your comment.
      I will pass on your thoughts, especially re how remarkable it is that Russia’s offers to negotiate are unmentionable. That is the pithy statement I was trying to compose.
      I make my case to the Putin bashers on my watch by asking if they think totally ignoring a spouse’s reasons for or even declarations of distress, fear, anger, loneliness – makes for a good marriage.
      How will we repatriate St. Clair and Cockburn and the others? They have been worthy.

    2. jrkrideau

      It’s remarkable how Russia’s multiple pre-war offers to negotiate over the European security situation are simply unmentionable.

      I pointed out that from Gorbachev to Yeltsin to Mudvedev to Putin every Russian president has warned of NATO expansion to the East. The response “any excuse for an imperialist invasion”. I’d be pulling my hair out but I have none to spare.

      I doubt that many people know about Russia’s offers to negotiate. They really believe that plucky little Ukraine is a smoothly functioning democracy. The Azov brigade is Ukraine’s equivalent of the boy scouts.

  43. Peter VE

    I scrolled through the entire comments, and was relieved to find that none accepted the authors comments as anything other than misinformed bull.

    1. ks

      Yes, I read more comments than paragraphs in the article, which from the first sentence promised to be worthless. Glad to hear it was posted to provoke.

      There’s actually a fair amount of information out there, if you want to find it, which even people I respect apparently don’t. Today, following yet another link, this one from The Duran, I found an explanation that makes sense of Russia’s failed Plan A leading to what appears to be a successful Plan B: (second video) This had been unclear to me.

  44. Cesar Jeopardy

    Looking into Alfred McCoy’s past, it seems he has a Doctorate of Philosophy in History…or maybe Anthropology. I’m not sure he has any expertise in the area in which he is commenting here.

Comments are closed.