U.S. corporate media accounts of how tough President Joe Biden was at his virtual summit with President Vladimir Putin yesterday followed a weeks-long script recently catalyzed by the eye-catching Washington Post Dec. 3 story entitled: "Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, US intelligence warns."
Impressive: That’s a lot of strawman invaders to thwart.
In post-summit comments, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized that Biden was "direct and straightforward" with Putin, warning not only of more draconian economic sanctions but also of additional arms to Ukraine if Russia attacked. Sullivan told reporters, "Things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now."
To remind: The US-orchestrated coup on Feb. 22, 2014 in Ukraine – properly labeled "the most blatant coup in history" since YouTube revealed the US coup plans on Feb. 4, 2014 – is what led to the refusal of the vast majorities of citizens in Crimea, Donetsk, and Lugansk to bow to the diktat of the proto-Nazi regime then emplaced in Kiev.
Both Sides Can Claim a Measure of Success
If past practice is any indicator, the Kremlin will not rain on Biden’s parade by emphasizing its straw-man nature. Russia’s leaders are only too familiar with the reality that US domestic politics trumps (pardon the word) virtually all other considerations and is prone to create straw-man threats to face down. The more so in the wake of this year’s military and political embarrassment of Afghanistan.
There will be no invasion; let Biden crow about thwarting one; but let him also calm down the hotheads in Ukraine who very much want to provoke Russia into taking military action to protect anti-regime federalists (aka "pro-Russian separatists") in Lugansk and Donetsk.
More Important Questions
There may have been some tacit understanding that the U.S. will dampen expectations in Kiev that Washington will support NATO membership for Ukraine any time soon. But Putin has warned that Ukraine is becoming a military platform for NATO just the same. Membership, in other words, is fast becoming a distinction without a difference, in Moscow’s eyes. Here’s what bothered the Kremlin and it’s military leaders the most from a strategic point of view.
It will be helpful to return to the (never-mentioned-in-Establishment-media) coup in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014. Less than a month later (on March 18), President Putin made it immediately (and publicly) clear that a statement by Arseyniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian functionary who bubbled to the top, about Ukraine joining NATO and – even more important [Putin’s words] – the U.S./NATO plans to deploy ABM systems around Russia’s western periphery and in the Black Sea, were the prime motivating forces behind the post-referendum re-incorporation of Crimea into Russia.
It was clear even back then that those "ABM systems" can easily be converted into missile systems threatening Russia’s strategic deterrent. This highly neuralgic (for Moscow) issue is very much front and center again, but there is no sign that it was addressed in any detail at Tuesday’s summit. The Kremlin did announce, though, that the two leaders agreed to have their representatives engage in “substantial consultations” on the issue in the future.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).