Secretary of Defense James Mattis has been pushing for the provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine including javelin anti-tank missiles to assist the pro-Western government of Petro Poroshenko in its war against Russian separatists in the Eastern Donbass region.
Since the war broke out, the U.S. has provided over $750 million in nonlethal weaponry including body armor, night-vision equipment, radios and Humvees as well as radars while training Ukrainian military regiments covertly.
After visiting Ukraine on Thursday, Mr. Mattis said that Ukraine is not the aggressor in the war since “it is their territory where the fighting is happening.” Mattis in turn advised President Trump to expand military aid in order to assist a vital strategic ally in its self-defense.
Mattis’ viewpoint, however, discounts the fact that many Ukrainians do not view the Poroshenko government as legitimate since it came to power in what many regard as a coup d’état in April 2014 heavily supported by the United States and West.
The government furthermore has been equally corrupt as its predecessor and forged alliance with neo-Nazi groups who supported the so-called Maidan revolution of 2014. They have been implicated with the Ukrainian army in human rights abuses fighting separatists in the Eastern Donbass including extra-judicial killing and torture in secret prisons.
The Western media almost uniformly branded Russia as an aggressor in the Ukrainian War. However, from the Russian point of view, the existence of a neo-Nazi backed government on its border backed by the West is alarming.
Russia’s troop presence has been relatively limited, furthermore, and the separatist rebels in Eastern Donbass are a popular force locally who welcome Russian intervention.
Ukraine country has long been divided between East and West, with different segments of the population seeing benefit in allying either with Russia or the West.
The question Americans should be asking is whether it is their duty to pick sides in a complex civil conflict and what underlying agendas have been driving U.S. interference in the country to this point.
Since the late 1990s, the United States has been expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the East and since 2008 has expressed interest in extending NATO membership to Ukraine.
This is part of a strategy designed to encircle and isolate Russia, and potentially destabilize a long-standing geopolitical rival.
Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2007 has advanced a vision of a multipolar world order and taken steps to consolidate a Eurasian power bloc he hopes one day might rival the United States.
Mr. Putin has also aggressively pursued the building of pipelines in Central Asia and oil exploration. These measures threaten American control over the Eurasian heartland, which imperial strategists like the late-Zbigniew Brzezinski have long considered crucial to American global dominance.
The hysteria surrounding Russia-Gate so far has revealed very little information about alleged collusion between Trump administration officials and the Russians or concrete evidence of Russia’s election hacking.
However, it has helped to fuel anti-Russian sentiment and hysteria in the United States which the foreign policy establishment is using to garner support for confrontationist policies.
The American public should be better attuned to the politicized implications of Russia-Gate and oppose Mattis’ effort to arm Ukraine with lethal defensive weaponry. It is part and parcel of an imperialist grand strategy that will contribute to more human rights violations by Ukraine’s army and inevitably deepen the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and Russia fueling a new Cold War.
Jeremy Kuzmarov teaches at the University of Tulsa and is author of several books including the forthcoming, The Russians are Coming Again: Cold War I as Tragedy, Cold War II as Farce, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).