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Drifting Towards War?

Follow Me on Twitter     Message Reginald Johnson

Despite the election of a new president in Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, civil strife continues to rage in that country, and the possibility remains of an eventual confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.

Violence in Ukraine has escalated as forces loyal to the pro-western regime that came to power in Kiev in a February coup ramp up a full-fledged military campaign against pro-Russian separatists in the east, who do not recognize the new authorities.

Poroshenko, while indicating he wanted to improve relations with Russia, has pledged to carry on the military campaign to root out and kill the separatists, who he likens to "Somali pirates." He said he would not negotiate with "terrorists."[tag]
Rally To Restore Sanity Somali Pirates
Rally To Restore Sanity Somali Pirates
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Dozens of fighters on both sides, as well as civilians, have been killed in the fighting. There have been some horrific incidents with pro-government neo-Nazi fighters setting fire to buildings where separatists have fled, and burning people alive. Rebel fighters have also been accused of atrocities.

The separatists, many of whom are ethnic Russians, have taken over whole cities in eastern Ukraine and boycotted the election.

There is concern on the part of some observers that the on-going fighting could turn into a full-fledged civil war, prompting Russia --- which borders Ukraine --- to intervene. At some point NATO and the U.S. could get involved, too.

Given that both the U.S. and Russia are nuclear-armed, this is a frightening scenario.

Unfortunately, such a possibility is not totally remote, says the widely respected expert on Russia, Prof. Stephen Cohen. "It is not inconceivable that we may be creeping, crawling, drifting towards war with Russia," Cohen said on the Counterpoint radio show May 19 on WPKN, hosted by Scott Harris.

Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton said that in the chaos in Ukraine, "anything can happen." He added, "I think it's the worst crisis since the Cuban missile crisis."

The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, for those not alive at the time or who don't know, saw the U.S. and Russia (then the Soviet Union) almost start a nuclear war over American demands that Russian missiles be removed from Cuba. Fortunately, catastrophe was averted when Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy worked out a deal, whereby Russian missiles would be taken out of Cuba in return for American missiles being removed from Italy and Turkey, together with a pledge that the U.S. would not invade Cuba.

Cohen said there is an urgent need for dialogue to defuse the present crisis between the Kiev regime and the east Ukrainian separatists. He said the group in east Ukraine is demanding a greater level of autonomy, possibly a form of independence in a federalized system. "This is negotiable," said Cohen.

At the urging of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, roundtable" talks involving officials from Kiev, and political and business leaders in east Ukraine were started recently, but little was accomplished. More talks are planned. Separatist leaders did not attend, partly because they distrust the authorities in Kiev, and partly because the Kiev leaders said they would not talk with people "with blood on their hands," which would exclude a number of separatists.

It should be noted that these meetings were not suggested by the United States. The Obama administration said it did not object to the talks, but withheld public endorsement for the negotiations by either President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.

Russia's leader Vladimir Putin has offered a number of steps to try to ease the crisis, while the United States has done nothing. Putin announced he was pulling his troops back from the Ukrainian border, although the west says he is lying; he asked the separatists not to hold independence referendums. He gave his support for the national election saying he would respect the results, and he called for a dialogue between the Kiev government and the eastern protesters.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has issued a string of belligerent statements by Obama and Kerry, blaming Russia for arming and encouraging the rebel groups, and while threatening Russia with more economic sanctions for its alleged bad behavior, the administration has done little to ensure that neo-Nazis are not participating in the civil conflict. The fascist thugs, who spearheaded the fighting in the February coup, have now been incorporated into the National Guard, and have been reportedly carrying out atrocities in east Ukraine.

It would be nice if President Obama would change course, tone down the rhetoric and start taking the steps to bring about a constructive dialogue between the factions in Ukraine, to settle the crisis, but I don't think that's likely to happen. The Ukraine crisis serves the United States, or at least the people who are shaping American foreign policy. It's part of a long-range plan, developed by hawks in the Pentagon and neo-cons in the State department --- and Obama is siding with them --- to undermine R Russia, and ultimately force regime change.

Adding fuel to the fire in the Ukraine crisis are conservative members of Congress like U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Democrats like Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., who are pushing the "blame Russia" policy. Mainstream media outlets have followed suit.

The noted author and war critic John Pilger wrote recently in The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/13/ukraine-us-war-russia-john-pilger/: "if the civil strife continues and there are more attacks on ethnic Russians, Putin may be provoked into coming to their aid." Then, Pilger writes, Putin's "pre-ordained 'pariah' role will justify a NATO-run guerilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself."
A war that Russia has to fight next door, similar to the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, would be tremendously draining. That cost, together with sanctions, could seriously undermine Russia in the long term, putting the annoying Mr. Putin, who has aided two enemies of the U.S., Syria and Iran, out of the way. This may be the neo-cons' dream scenario.

But this dream plan is fraught with unbelievable risks. If Russia is backed into a corner fighting the Ukrainian regime aided by NATO weaponry, they might consider striking back with nuclear weapons, turning the dream scenario into a nightmare.

The reality is, we have no business in Ukraine. This is in Russia's backyard, and their actions to date are understandable, if not always legal. They feel threatened by the eastward advance of NATO, and with Ukraine becoming a western ally (and possibly a NATO member later), Russia feels encircled

American policy to date in Ukraine is irrational and risks possibly a world war.

People need to get involved in opposing this policy. They need to call and write their congress people and push them to take a stand against this. Congress so far has been asleep at the switch on Ukraine, with too many members unthinkingly going along with the administration. There should be hearings and a debate on Ukraine.

As Prof. Cohen said, "I don't remember in my lifetime there ever being a situation in America where war was on the horizon and there was no debate inside the beltway, the mainstream press, or in Congress.

No debate at all! That's a failure of democracy." Get involved. http://btlonline.org/2014/140523-btl.html

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Reginald Johnson is a free-lance writer based in Bridgeport, Ct. His work has appeared in The New York Times, BBC-Online, the Connecticut Post, his web magazine, The Pequonnock, and Reading Between the Lines, a web magazine affiliated with the (more...)
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