Western media and Western governments are all telling us one thing. But, suddenly, the actual players are all telling us another. Is it possible that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed an opportune situation too far and is now afraid of what he has unleashed?
On September 1, 2021, Zelensky met with Biden at the White House. In setting the agenda, he said that he "would like to discuss with President Biden here his vision, his government’s vision of Ukraine’s chances to join NATO and the timeframe for this accession.” He also walked away with a pledge for millions more in US money for security assistance.
Zelensky has been demanding, and receiving, money and arms from everyone. Only Germany has not joined the US, Canada, the UK, Europe and even the Baltic States in sending Zelensky the gift of weaponry.
But as the arms pour in, as the US focuses more on long talks than real solutions, and as Ukraine finds itself in the middle of something potentially scary, suddenly Zelensky is calming things down instead of heating things up.
After asking everyone to send money, arms and troops, on January 25, Zelensky suddenly turned down the volume. Everything is "under control," he calmly reassured. There is "no reason to panic." In fact, nothing is happening at all. Ukraine’s foreign ministry joined the new Zelensky choir, saying that, "In fact, there have been no radical changes in the security situation recently: the threat of new waves of Russian aggression has remained constant since 2014." Zelensky actually "does not think there’s any remotely imminent threat to Kyiv."
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov added the not trivial contribution that the Russian troops near his border have not formed battle groups, "which would have indicated that tomorrow they would launch an offensive.” And just to make sure everyone was singing their part in the new Zelensky choir, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, added that the activity of Russian troops near the Ukraine border "is not news." Not news? Then why are Biden and Blinken threatening war with Russia?
The US, UK, Germany and Australia have recently recalled their embassy staff from Ukraine because of the imminent danger of Russian invasion and war. On January 25, Canada joined them. But the EU did not. Why? Because, Josep Borrell, the chief EU diplomat said, "we don’t know any specific reasons.” He went so far as to call closing embassies dramatizing the situation. Ukraine agrees. The Ukrainian foreign ministry called it "premature." Zelensky broke with the US and actually thanked the EU, saying, he was "grateful" to countries "whose diplomats remain in our country and support us in our work.”
Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials now seem to be closer to what Russia has been saying. Putin has consistently denied that Russian troops are near the Ukrainian border for offensive rather than defensive reasons. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, again told a US media audience that Russian troops are positioned as they are in response to NATO threats. He added, in case no one has been listening to Putin, "[W]e’re not speaking about military action. This is – you have to understand, no one is threatening anyone with military action. This will be just a madness to do that."
And it is not only Russia, Ukraine and the EU who are speaking in a way that is not consistent with the way the situation is being constantly hyped by the US government and media. It is also the US. CIA Director Burns maintains that “We don’t know that Putin has made up his mind to use force.” So, “U.S. intelligence agencies haven’t concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine.” And, as the Ukrainian Minister of Defense has said that the Russian groups have, at least not yet, formed into battle groups that would indicate an invasion, so US intelligence says Russian troops have not done what they would expect if they intended an invasion. US intelligence had expected that, if Putin was planning to invade Ukraine, there would be a surge in the number of Russian troops near the Ukraine border, and the hostile presence would swell to 175,000. No such surge has occurred.
In 2008, the US, having been stymied by Germany and France in its attempt to accelerate Ukraine’s ascension into NATO, stated that, "NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agree today that these countries will become members of NATO.” In 2014, the US set up and supported a coup in Ukraine that was intended to pull Ukraine closer into the NATO and European security sphere. Ukraine’s President Zelensky has been pressing the gas pedal on NATO membership, and the US and NATO have intensified the pressure on Russia, pushing NATO and weapons right up to its borders.
Russia finally drew the line. Prior to 2014, Russia had accepted its subordinate role to the West and compromised on all disagreements with the US. At Ukraine, Putin drew the line. He refused to accept the US’s hegemonic rules and stood up to the unipolar world. He defended Russia’s interests and asserted itself as a balancing pole in a multipolar world. That is why the US is so threatened by Russia’s demands for security assurances. It is not about Ukraine: it is about the line over which the battle to maintain the US led unipolar world will be fought.
Zelensky may have exploited this situation to advance his NATO ambitions. But having called for weapons and troops, he now finds his nation in the middle of a potential war in which his country will become the battle ground. Perhaps that is why he is may now be attempting to disarm the situation.
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.