A week ago we noted that a May 11 New York Times news article, documented that all was not going well for the US in Ukraine and that a companion opinion piece hinted that a shift in direction might be in order.
Now on May 19, "THE EDITORIAL BOARD," the full Magisterium of the Times, has moved from hints to a clarion call for a change in direction in an editorial uninformatively titled, "The War Is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready." From atop the Opinion page the Editorial board has declared that "total victory" over Russia is not possible and that Ukraine will have to negotiate a peace in a way that reflects a "realistic assessment" and the "limits" of US commitment. The Times serves as one the main shapers of public opinion for the Elite and so its pronouncements are not to be overlooked lightly.
Ukrainians will have to adjust to US "limits" and make sacrifices for newfound US realism
The Times May editorial dictum contain the following key passages:
"In March, this board argued that the message from the United States and its allies to Ukrainians and Russians alike must be: No matter how long it takes, Ukraine will be free. …"
"That goal cannot shift, but in the end, it is still not in America’s best interest to plunge into an all-out war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions (emphasis, jw)."
To ensure that there is no ambiguity, the editorial declares that:
"A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal. … Russia remains too strong…"
To make cerain that President Biden and the Ukrainians understand what they should do, the EDITORIAL BOARD goes on to say:
"… Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain (emphasis, jw)."
As Volodymyr Zelensky reads those words, he must surely begin to sweat. The voice of his masters is telling him that he and Ukraine will have to make some sacrifices for the US to save face. As he contemplates his options, his thoughts must surely run back to February, 2014, and the US backed Maidan coup that culminated in the hasty exit of President Yanukovych from his office, his country and almost from this earth.
Ukraine is a proxy war that is all too dangerous
In the eyes of the Times editorial writers, the war has become a US proxy war against Russia using Ukrainians as cannon fodder – and it is careening out of control:
"The current moment is a messy one in this conflict, which may explain President Biden and his cabinet’s reluctance to put down clear goal posts."
"The United States and NATO are already deeply involved, militarily and economically. Unrealistic expectations could draw them ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war.."
"Recent bellicose statements from Washington – President Biden’s assertion that Mr. Putin ‘cannot remain in power,’ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comment that Russia must be ‘weakened’ and the pledge by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that the United States would support Ukraine ‘until victory is won’ – may be rousing proclamations of support, but they do not bring negotiations any closer."
While the Times dismisses these statements as "rousing proclamations," it is all too clear that for the neocons in charge of US foreign policy, the goal has always been a proxy war to bring down Russia. This has not become a proxy war; it has always been a proxy war. The neocons operate by the Wolfowitz Doctrine, enunciated in 1992, soon after the end of Cold War 1.0, by the necoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, then Under Secretary of Defense:
"We endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."
"We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global power."
Clearly if Russia is "too strong" to be defeated in Ukraine, it is too strong to be brought down as a superpower.
The Times has shifted Its opinion from March to May. What Has Changed?
First of all, Russia has handled the situation unexpectedly well compared to dire predictions from the West.
President Putin’s support exceeds 80%.
165 of 195 nations, including India and China with 35% of the world’s population, have refused to join the sanctions against Russia, leaving the US, not Russia, relatively isolated in the world.
The ruble, which Biden said would be "rubble" has not only returned to its pre-February levels but is valued at a 2 year high, today at 59 rubles to the dollar compared to 150 in March.
Russia is expecting a bumper harvest and the world is eager for its wheat and fertilizer, oil and gas all of which provide substantial revenue.
The EU has largely succumbed to Russia’s demand to be paid for gas in rubles. Treasury Secretary Yellin is warning the suicidal Europeans that an embargo of Russian oil will further damage the economies of the West.
Russian forces are making slow but steady progress across southern and eastern Ukraine after winning in Mariupol, the biggest battle of the war so far, and a demoralizing defeat for Ukraine.
In the US inflation, which was already high before the Ukraine crisis, has been driven even higher and reached over 8% with the Fed scrambling to control it with higher interest rates. Partly as a result of this, the stock market has come close to bear territory. As the war progresses, many have joined Ben Bernanke, former Fed Chair, in predicting a period of high unemployment, high inflation and low growth – the dread stagflation.
Domestically, there are signs of deterioration in support of the war. Most strikingly, 57 House Republicans and 11 Senate Republicans voted against the latest package of weaponry to Ukraine, bundled with considerable pork and hidden bonanzas for the war profiteers. (Strikingly no Democrat, not a single one, not even the most "progressive" voted against pouring fuel on the fire of war raging in Ukraine. But that is another story.)
And while US public opinion remains in favor of US involvement in Ukraine there are signs of slippage. For example, Pew reports that those feeling the US is not doing enough declined from March to May. As more stagflation takes hold with gas and food prices growing and voices like those of Tucker Carlson and Rand Paul pointing out the connection between the inflation and the war, discontent is certain to grow.
The NYT editorial signals alarm over the insane goal of the neoconservatives.
There is a note of panic in this appeal to Biden to find a negotiated solution now. The U.S. and Russia are the world’s major nuclear powers with thousands of nuclear missiles on Launch On Warning, aka Hair Trigger Alert. At moments of high tension, the possibilities of Accidental Nuclear Armageddon are all too real.
Alarm is warranted and panic is understandable.
But will the neocons in charge give up and move in a reasonable and peaceful direction as the Times editorial demands? This is a fantasy of the first order. As one commenter observed, the warhawks like Nuland, Blinken, and Sullivan have no reverse gear. They always double down. And they are now in control of the foreign policy of the Biden administration, the Democratic Party and most of the Republican Party. They do not serve the interests of humanity nor do they serve the interests of the American people. They are in reality traitors to this country. They must be exposed, discredited and pushed aside. Our survival depends on it.
John V. Walsh, until recently a professor of physiology and neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for Asia Times, San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, and others.