Reprinted from Consortium News
The U.S. government and mainstream media are swaggering toward a possible nuclear confrontation with Russia over Ukraine without any of the seriousness that has informed this sort of decision-making throughout the nuclear age. Instead, Official Washington seems possessed by a self-righteous goofiness that could be the prelude to the end of life on this planet.
Nearly across the U.S. political spectrum, there is a pugnacious "group think" which has transformed what should have been a manageable political dispute in Ukraine into some morality play where U.S. politicians and pundits blather on about how the nearly year-old coup regime in Kiev "shares our values" and how America must be prepared to defend this regime militarily.
Though I'm told that President Barack Obama personally recognizes how foolhardy this attitude is, he has made no significant move to head off the craziness and, indeed, has tolerated provocative actions by his underlings, such as neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland's scheming with coup plotters to overthrow Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.
Obama also has withheld from the American people intelligence information that undercuts some of the more extreme claims that his administration has made. For instance, I'm told that he has detailed intelligence reporting on both the mysterious sniper attack that preceded the putsch nearly a year ago and the shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines Flights 17 that deepened the crisis last summer. But he won't release the findings.
More broadly over the last year, Obama's behavior -- ranging from his initial neglect of the Ukraine issue, as Nuland's coup plotting unfolded, to his own participation in the tough talk, such as boasting during his State of the Union address that he had helped put the Russian economy "in tatters" -- ranks as one of the most irresponsible performances by a U.S. president.
Given the potential stakes of nuclear war, none of the post-World War II presidents behaved as recklessly as Obama has, which now includes allowing his administration officials to talk loosely about sending military support to an unstable regime in Kiev that includes neo-Nazis who have undertaken death-squad operations against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who is commander of NATO, declared last November that -- regarding supplying military support for the Kiev government -- "nothing at this time is off the table." Breedlove is now pushing actively to send lethal U.S. military equipment to fend off an offensive by ethnic Russian rebels in the east.
I'm told that the Russians fear that U.S. officials are contemplating placing Cruise missiles in Ukraine or otherwise introducing advanced weaponry that Moscow regards as a direct threat to its national security. Whether or not the Russians are being alarmist, these fears are affecting their own decision-making.
None of the nuclear-age presidents -- not Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush -- would have engaged in such provocative actions on Russia's borders, though some surely behaved aggressively in overthrowing governments and starting wars farther away.
Even Ronald Reagan, an aggressive Cold Warrior, kept his challenges to the Soviet Union in areas that were far less sensitive to its national security than Ukraine. He may have supported the slaughter of leftists in Central America and Africa or armed Islamic fundamentalists fighting a Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, but he recognized the insanity of a military showdown with Moscow in Eastern Europe.
After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, U.S. presidents became more assertive, pushing NATO into the former Warsaw Pact nations and, under President Clinton, bombing a Russian ally in Serbia, but that came at a time when Russia was essentially flat on its back geopolitically.
Perhaps the triumphalism of that period is still alive especially among neocons who reject President Vladimir Putin's reassertion of Russia's national pride. These Washington hardliners still feel that they can treat Moscow with disdain, ignoring the fact that Russia maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal and is not willing to return to the supine position of the 1990s.
In 2008, President George W. Bush -- arguably one of the most reckless presidents of the era -- backed away from a confrontation with Russia when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a neocon favorite, drew the Russians into a border conflict over South Ossetia. Despite some war talk from the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain, President Bush showed relative restraint.
But Obama has failed to rein in his administration's war hawks and has done nothing to correct the biased narrative that his State Department has fed to the equally irresponsible mainstream U.S. news media. Since the Ukraine crisis began in fall of 2013, the New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets have provided only one side of the story, openly supporting the interests of the pro-European western Ukrainians over the ethnic Russian eastern Ukrainians.