Our Cold War With Russia Could Turn Hot

Ukrainian tinderbox may set off World War III

by , September 03, 2014

As the NATO summit approaches, and Ukraine’s ruthless war on its eastern provinces sets off an exodus of nearly a million refugees to Russia, war hysteria in the West is reaching epic proportions. The pundits are up in arms: miffed that the long-awaited Russia invasion has failed to materialize, they are now declaring it happened anyway – it’s a "stealth" invasion, i.e. the kind only a neocon can see. There has to have been a Russian invasion, because, after all, the Ukrainians are losing, and it can’t be because their soldiers are deserting in droves or turning tail and running at the prospect of having to shoot their fellow countrymen

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who doesn’t realize that even the most expansive estimates of the number of Russians fighting in Ukraine put it at a mere one-thousand, says it’s a "direct invasion" in which "thousands" of Russkies are overrunning the place. He wants us to arm the Ukrainians with "defensive" weapons – although Anne Applebaum’s somewhat overwrought contention that Moscow is planning to nuke Kiev makes Menendez look like a piker. The Amazonian Applebaum is demanding “total war.”

In seeming response to these hysterics, Putin told Euro-commisar Jose Manuel Barroso "If I want to, I could take Kiev in two weeks," which caused blabbermouth Barroso to go wailing to the international media that Putin is on the march. The key words here, of course, are "If I want to" – because he clearly can, and just as clearly doesn’t want to. Indeed, the Russian leader has steadfastly refused to recognize the self-proclaimed "Donetsk Peoples Republic" and has publicly urged them to negotiate with Kiev. The rebels, for their part, have taken Putin up on this, dropping their previous demand for complete independence and asking now, instead, for autonomy.

Kiev, however, isn’t interested in peace talks: the entire goal of their "anti-terrorist" operation in east Ukraine has been to stamp out the rebellion as quickly as possible, and their tactics have reflected this timeline. Air strikes against civilian population centers have been a key feature of the Ukrainian civil war, and the UN estimates that at least 2,200 have died (the reality is closer to 2,600). The UN report, however, ascribes the blame not to the Kiev authorities, but – incredibly – to the rebels, who are blamed for firing from within their own territory. In short, the UN justifies the mass slaughter of civilians in the same way the Israelis rationalize their Gaza massacre.

Kiev’s eagerness to crush the rebels is due to the high costs of the military offensive, both financial and political. Ukraine is bankrupt and is gearing up to impose a severe regime of austerity that will make the government even more unpopular than it is already. And the imposition of military conscription has provoked well-attended anti-draft/antiwar rallies, which pose a direct threat to the government’s legitimacy. These two factors, in combination, could pose a big problem for the US-backed regime in the upcoming parliamentary elections: the ultra-nationalist and overtly fascist Radical Party is reportedly making big gains in the polls.

The fuehrer of the Radicals is one Oleg Lyashko, a member of the Rada (parliament) who leads a group vigilantes who abduct and torture people suspected of rebel sympathies in east Ukraine. He videotapes the whole gruesome scene and posts the videos on his scary web site.

Yes, these are the US-backed fighters for "democracy" in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say they can’t afford to do without Lyashko and his stormtroopers: after all, according to Ukrainian defense minister Valeriy Heletey "A great war has arrived at our doorstep, the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War Two." And while hyperbole as a rhetorical device is often resorted to by politicians backed into a corner, the Ukrainian government has taken it to a whole new level.

At one point, when they were trying to convince the world – and themselves – that the rebels were on their last legs, they claimed to have killed one-thousand insurgents in two battles just a few days apart. When no evidence for this emerged, they switched gears and instead of talking about the rebels they started focusing on the Russians, claiming that four Ukrainian soldiers were killed in an attack by a Russian helicopter. Most Western news organizations, who have been remarkably tolerant of reporting these tall tales with a straight face, have since removed this story from their web sites.

What’s especially scary about the escalating rhetorical and military situation surrounding the Ukraine civil war is that whenever Kiev issues one of their over-the-top pronouncements, NATO general secretary Anders Rasmussen repeats it verbatim a few hours later. Together, the Rasmussen-Kiev-Washington axis of hyperbole is fanning the flames of a "great war" – the consequences of which are the sort we haven’t contemplated since the bad old days of the cold war, when American schoolchildren routinely cowered under their desks in "duck and cover" air raid drills.

Naturally, Western media have been all too eager to up the temperature of a hot war already veering out of control: for example, when Putin likened the demands of the rebels for autonomy to "statehood" – as in granting the eastern provinces the same rights Washington accords the separate states of the Union – the media jumped on this, averring that the Russians were pulling another Crimea. And while the Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to issue a correction, Washington’s journalistic stenographers continue to report their "error" as fact.

The rebels, energized by the horrific attacks on civilians by Ukrainian air power – and more popular in the region than ever – are pushing back against Kiev’s "anti-terrorist" operation, and seem to be winning, at least for the moment. The government’s big fear is that they will take the port of Mariupol, which will connect Crimea to the Donestk Republic. Faced with debilitating desertions – a whopping 750,000 Ukrainian citizens, many of them former soldiers, have defected to Russia in recent months – and growing unrest back home in Kiev, the authorities have tried to turn what is a civil war into a confrontation with Russia. Their whole shtick is to garner Western military support.

Western leaders are all too eager to buy into this, and the NATO summit to be held this week is promising to be the launching pad of a new military initiative. The NATO-crats are already announcing the formation of a "spearhead" rapid-reaction force, numbering in the thousands, to counter Russia’s "stealth invasion."

What this means is that it’s not out of the question that US "peacekeepers" could be fighting the rebels a few miles from the Russian border – and this could happen sooner than anyone now imagines. The next time Kiev issues one of its outrageous lies claiming direct Russian intervention, we’ll be a border incident away from a face-off with nuclear-armed Russia. "Duck and cover," here we come.

This entire episode of Cold War II has been a farce from the very start: far from a case of Russian "aggression," the destabilization of Ukraine and subsequent coup against the democratically-elected government of President Yanukovich was bought-and-paid-for by Washington, which poured millions into Ukrainian "NGOs" and did everything to encourage the violence that ended in Yanukovich’s overthrow. When Crimea rose up against Kiev, the West framed it as a Russian "invasion," when it was the Americans in concert with their European junior partners who were and are the real invaders.

NATO should’ve been buried at the end of the cold war: instead, the NATO-crats went on the offensive – breaching the understanding reached by Western leaders with then Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev – and expanded into most of eastern Europe. George Kennan characterized this as the greatest tragedy of the post-cold war era, and his starkly realistic vision of world affairs is being confirmed as Barack Obama heads to Estonia to do his best John F. Kennedy impression – "Icht bin ein Ukrainians!" – The seeds of World War III are being planted, as none other than Lech Walesa has pointed out. It isn’t and it isn’t due to "global warming" that they just may sprout sooner than anyone thinks.


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You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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