A brief history of the US-instigated Ukraine War
By Jeff Mackler
In yet another escalation of the US-instigated Ukraine War, the Biden administration’s decision to send internationally banned cluster bombs to Ukraine reminds us once again that U.S. imperialism accepts zero limits on its heinous and genocidal policies. Ukraine is running out of artillery ammunition at the front in spite of the fact that Washington has sent two million artillery shells that have not led to any significant advance in the Ukrainian summer offensive (previously called the spring offensive).
Biden projects cluster bombs will turn the tide
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s US/NATO-backed regime has demanded these weapons for months. Zelensky now presses for long-range missiles to reach deep into Russia, as the war has stalled. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated bluntly that “the aim of the United States in the Ukraine War is to weaken Russia” to the point it would no longer be a power in the world. To that end, since the conflict began, beginning with the February 2014 US-backed and orchestrated fascist-led coup that overthrew the elected Viktor Yanukovych government of Ukraine, the US has steadily increased its overt role in the war. In 2014-15 the CIA secretly presided over the assembling, financing, training, arming and directing of rightwing jihadist troops from some 28 countries aimed at eventually transferring Ukraine’s vast fossil fuel and agricultural resources to US-associated corporate interests. [See: Socialist Action’s March 24, 2023 statement, “Ukraine: U.S. Out Now! Our Antiwar Credo.]” Not one iota different from US imperialist war policies in Latin America, where US-orchestrated coups and/or attempted coups, not to mention embargoes, blockades, biological warfare, assassinations, etc., have been the US norm for multiple decades – Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Brazil, Grenada, El Salvador – the US imperialist beast presides over the most monstrous war machine in world history. Today this includes 1,100 US military bases in 110 countries and a $trillion-plus annual military budget that nearly exceeds the combined expenditures of the rest of the world. According to a recent New York Times editorial questioning the sending of cluster bombs, “Line after line has been crossed with Washington and its allies agreeing to provide sophisticated weapons like the Patriot air defense system, the HIMARS long-range rocket launcher, the Abrams tank and soon the F-16 jet fighter.” Washington’s moral standing in much of the world, especially the Global South is already in tatters due to the killing and maiming of millions of civilians by the US in its wars since the end of WW II, including most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan where the US used cluster munitions and depleted uranium missiles and presided over the slaughter of some 2.5 million people, mostly civilians. Readers will recall that the 2003 Iraq War was pursued by President George W. Bush’s administration as necessary to eliminate Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” weapons that that had been repeatedly exposed as non-existent. Similarly, the corporate media dutifully reported on the “discoveries” of deadly Sarin and mustard gas canisters in Iraq, again, all fabrications as revealed by official US weapons inspectors like Scott Ritter! Indeed, President Biden himself later stated that the 2003 US Iraq War was a grave “mistake.” That “mistake” cost the lives of 1.5 million Iraqis!
The US is no newcomer to outlawed weapons of mass destruction A July 7, 2023 NYT articles entitled, “Toxic Arsenal Nears Its End, Decades Later” provides more than a glimpse of US war crimes, including its systematic engagement with and deployment of every type of weapon of mass destruction. Here we quote but a few sections of The Times article:
• Decades behind its initial schedule, the dangerous job of eliminating the world’s only remaining declared stockpile of lethal chemical munitions will be completed as soon as Friday.
• In a sealed room behind a gantlet of armed guards and three rows of high barbed wire at the Army’s Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado, a team of robotic arms was busily disassembling some of the last of the United States’ vast and ghastly stockpile of chemical weapons.
• In went artillery shells filled with deadly mustard agent that the Army had been storing for more than 70 years. The bright yellow robots pierced, drained and washed each shell, then baked it at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Out came inert and harmless scrap metal, falling off a conveyor belt into an ordinary brown dumpster with a resounding clank.
• The American stockpile, built up over generations, was shocking in its scale: Cluster bombs and land mines filled with nerve agent. Artillery shells that could blanket whole forests with a blistering mustard fog. Tanks full of poison that could be loaded on jets and sprayed on targets below.
• They were a class of weapons deemed so inhumane that their use was condemned after World War I, but even so, the United States and other powers continued to develop and amass them. Some held deadlier versions of the chlorine and mustard agents made infamous in the trenches of the Western Front. Others held nerve agents developed later, like VX and Sarin, that are lethal even in tiny quantities. Here we have The New York Times reporting on the US-claimed plans for the total destruction of banned weapon on the one hand while decrying the US sending the same weapons, cluster bombs, to Ukraine today!
US opposes 2008 cluster ban treaty
Cluster bombs explode in the air, and scatter small bomblets to kill people over a wide area Some of these bomblets do not explode, and thus present an ongoing danger long after they are deployed — years and decades — to civilians, including children, who come across them, and handle them, setting them off. To date, 123 countries have signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty, including Germany, France, Britain and 15 other members of NATO. The US, Russia and Ukraine have not signed. The US, the central deployer of cluster bombs during its wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, actively opposed the treaty. Canada, Britain, Germany and Austria have said they will abide by the ban. Spain’s representative said the cluster munitions should not be used by Ukraine under any circumstances. The Convention not only prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transferring the munitions, it has a key provision prohibiting assistance with those banned activities by others. Under US pressure, NATO countries that have signed the treaty will likely stand moot as they have with regard to all other US arms shipments to Ukraine. The recent NATO summit held in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 11-12, did not mention the cluster munitions. NATO’s silence, again under US pressure, indicated its deadly acquiescence.
Cambodia and Laos, still permeated with unexploded cluster bombs
During the Vietnam War the US dropped unprecedented tons of cluster bombs not only on Vietnam but on neighboring Laos and Cambodia. More than four million people, mostly civilians were murdered during this near-genocidal US war. “As the world’s largest victim of cluster munitions,” a representative of the Laotian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated last week, it too opposed Biden’s providing cluster bombs to Ukraine. Similarly, the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen stated, “It would be the greatest danger for Ukrainians for many years or up to a hundred years if cluster bombs are used in Russian-occupied areas in the territory of Ukraine.” Hun leaves out the Russian civilians in towns and cities that are intermingled with Russian troops in the Russian occupied Donbas and southern regions, who will be killed or maimed in the initial bombardment and then by the unexploded bomblets. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that in Laos alone, 11,000 people were killed or maimed by unexploded but live cluster bombs during and since the war ended 48 years ago, and seven to 27 million unexposed bomblets remain today. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, plus 36 other human rights organizations, have also condemned the US move. Biden has sought to prettify the decision with the claim that the bomblets won’t kill many civilians, since the Pentagon says less than three percent of the bomblets will remain unexploded when they hit the ground. The Pentagon provided zero evidence for this claim. Many authorities, including the Pentagon in previously published reports, put the figure of unexploded bomblets at 14 percent. It is higher when the ground is muddy. Mary Wareham, the advocacy director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch, said on Democracy Now, “This is an appalling decision by the Biden administration to transfer potentially hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds containing potentially millions of unreliable submunitions that have a higher dud rate than the Pentagon has disclosed….” An article in the British Guardian headlined, “End Justifies the Means for Biden in Sending Cluster Bombs to Ukraine — decision to approve cluster munitions, lambasted by rights groups, exposes feeling in Washington that war is reaching crunch time.”
The New York Times condemns Biden’s decision
A major recent editorial in the New York Times by the whole editorial board is titled, “The Flawed Moral Logic of Sending Cluster Munitions to Ukraine.” Reviewing the administration’s stated reasons for sending these weapons, the editorial states, “This is a flawed and troubling logic. In the face of the widespread global condemnation of cluster munitions and the danger they pose to civilians long after the fighting is over, this is not a weapon that a nation with the power and influence of the United States should be sending…. “This danger prompted the adoption of a Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. The United Nations secretary general at the time, Ban Ki-moon, spoke of ‘not only the world’s collective revulsion at these abhorrent weapons but also the power of collaboration among governments, civil society and the United Nations to change attitudes and policies on a threat faced by all humankind.’” A week later, The Times, likely bending to State Department pressure, featured an article alleging Russian use of cluster bombs in Ukraine, as if to justify the US policy they had just condemned. The Russian government vehemently denies the US accusations.
US manufactured four nuclear weapons daily for 40 years
From 1950 to 1990, the U.S. Energy Department, according to a June 1, 2023 NYT article entitled, “A Poisonous Cold War Remnant That Escapes a Solution,” produced “an average of four nuclear bombs every day, turning them out of hastily built factories with few environmental safeguards that left behind a vast legacy of toxic radioactive waste. Nowhere were the problems greater than at the Hanford Site in Washington State, where engineers sent to clean up the mess after the Cold War discovered 54 million gallons of highly radioactive sludge left from producing the plutonium in America’s atomic bombs, including the one dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in 1945.” [Emphasis in bold italics added. Editor] The article recounts the horrors still associated with storing the nuclear waste, that inexorably finds its way into the nation’s water systems. Here it is sufficient to just note yet another horror inextricably associated with the US capitalist/imperialist system. By the US count itself, 58,400 nuclear weapons, more than enough to destroy virtually all life on earth thousands of times over, not counting those produced after 1990, were produced by the military-industrial complex to line the pockets of the ruling rich, the same ruling elite who, in the also highly monopolized fossil fuel industry, today plan and prepare US fossil fuel wars, as with the current US Ukraine War.
The US periodic electoral charade
Contrary to capitalism’s systematically controlled and monopolized media, decisions to unleash the US war machine’s fury reside with the real ruling class, the great corporate monopolies that preside over all key decisions in the US. The periodic electoral charade that they orchestrate, wherein their multi-billionaire-financed candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, appear to vie over “control” of the US Congress, is aimed at masking that fact that in capitalist/imperialist America the rules are set and enforced by this elite few – the less than one tenth of one percent who are the accepted and effective leadership of the predatory US capitalist system. This multi-billionaire elite and their representatives, not the petty millionaires who populate the US congress, write the tax codes and the multi-trillion budgets that advance their interests.
Today’s disappearing moral outrage
Today’s momentary moral pangs of conscience that have opened a day or so of public indignation and debate over the US sending once again internationally banned weapons of mass destruction to Ukraine to pursue yet another US war of domination and conquest, have all but come to a close. With the requisite US condemnation of Russia for its alleged but undocumented deployment of the same cluster munitions in the same war, yesterday’s touted moral outrage has tragically given way to a return to blaming Putin’s Russia for the Ukraine War based on its February 2022 invasion. Renewed demands that Russia withdraw, perhaps, with a new nod from the “left” that activists should also condemn the US-dominated NATO a bit more.
Truth about origins of the Ukraine War
Socialist Action rejects this view entirely and reasserts our view on the origins of the present war going back to the February 2014 US-backed fascist-led coup. Here we recount the basic facts of this US-engineered coup that set the stage for all future events in Ukraine.
1) U.S. representative to the European Union, Victoria Nuland’s taped remarks, now online, revealed that the 2014 rooftop assassins who opened fire on the peaceful Maidan Square Kiev protestors, triggering widespread revulsion, were of the fascist Svoboda Party and Right Sector ilk and not the forces of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The armed thugs who slaughtered 100 Maidan protestors, including several of their own for good measure, had come from across Ukraine and beyond to dominate the Maidan events. Indeed, Socialist Action’s fraternal Ukrainian comrades were violently driven from the Maiden Square by fascist gangs, beaten – their socialist literature torn to shreds.
2) U.S. Senator John McCain shared the Maidan stage with fascist orator and Svoboda Party leader, Oleg Tyahnybok, while Nuland handed out U.S. “friendship cookies.” McCain roused the crowd with promises of “democracy, freedom and independence,” contingent, of course, on Ukraine’s reversing the government’s already-approved bailout agreements with Russia. Nuland remarked in her intercepted phone call, that then Vice President Joseph Biden, in charge of the Ukraine events at that time, would give the ultimate “atta boy” to the coup leaders.
3) Nuland went further. Her taped remarks revealed that she literally appointed Ukraine’s new president, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a hard right member of Fatherland, the ultra-nationalist, anti-Russian formation. The European Union (EU), especially the Germans, wanted a more moderate figure to head Ukraine. They favored Vitaly Klitschko, a boxer turned politician with more moderate credentials. During the hacked call, Nuland blurted out, “F***K the EU.” The U.S. pick, Yatsenyuk, became the Prime Minister of Ukraine, forming a coalition-governing majority with the fascist Svoboda Party.
4) The coup’s finance minister was U.S. citizen and high-ranking diplomat, Natalie Jeresko, who was granted Ukrainian citizenship the day after the coup. Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, took a position on the board of Ukraine’s largest natural gas company earning a monthly salary of $50,000.
5) The March 5, 2014 online British Channel 4 News account told the story well, identifying coup leader Andriy Parubiy, who led the storming of the Rada, as a member of fascist Svoboda Party and a founder of its pro-Nazi predecessor, the Social National Party, which traces its roots to the pro-Nazis Ukrainian movements of WWII. The British television station’s account of the US-backed coup government continued: “Overseeing the armed forces alongside Parubiy as the Deputy Secretary of National Security is Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector – a group of hardline nationalist streetfighters, who previously boasted they were ready for armed struggle to free Ukraine.”
6) Other Svoboda neo-Nazi leaders instantly “elected” to the top echelons of the coup government were Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych; Ecology Minister Andriy Mokhnyk; Agriculture Minister Ihor Shvaika, and acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitsky. In 2016 Parubiy became Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament. U.S. military base established in Ukraine
7) Shortly after the 2014 coup, in 2015, the coup makers established the so-called International Peacekeeping and Security Center, a U.S.-run western Ukraine military base, near the Polish border that had been, according to the March 14, 2022 New York Times, “a hub for Western military troops to train Ukrainian forces since 2015.” The Times added, “Troops from the United States, Britain, Canada, Poland, Sweden and Denmark, among others, have trained 35,000 Ukrainians there under a project called ‘Operation Unifier.’” This is the “operation” that aimed to forcibly “unite” western Ukraine, with the Russian-speaking eastern and southern populations that rejected the fascist coup. U.S. paid troops at that time included the modern-day descendants of the privatized Blackwater forces of Erik Prince, which slaughtered civilians in Iraq during that “weapons of mass destruction” regime change war. With the exception of Sweden, all the above nations are NATO affiliates, training, arming and financing non-NATO Ukraine to wage war on behalf of NATO’s U.S. puppet master.
8) The same Times article concludes, “But Western nations withdrew their forces ahead of Russia’s [February, 2022] invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the base has been used by Ukraine to train and organize the thousands of foreigners [from 28 nations] who have arrived in the country and volunteered to help defend it.” This single paragraph comes close to defying rational explanation, unless, of course, it is The Times’ explanation for the instant transformation of a secret US/NATO military base operating on Ukrainian territory into a solely Ukrainian-run base aimed at training the Ukrainian version of jihadist terrorists. No doubt these instantly discovered “foreign fighters” suddenly flocking to defend “Ukraine’s freedom” are akin to those jihadists murderers armed, trained, financed and deployed by the US/NATO/Gulf State monarchies to take down the Syrian government in that ten-year failed U.S. regime change war. 500,000 Syrians died in that US-orchestrated horror. By all accounts, today’s Ukrainian “freedom fighters” were drawn from the ranks of Europe’s growing fascist and far right fanatics.
Initial setbacks suffered by coup plotters
9) These US-backed fascist coup plotters were more than eager to accommodate U.S. imperialism’s insistence that Ukraine’s coup-transformed Rada serve US interests. But they suffered some immediate setbacks as they moved too quickly to implement US demands. First and foremost, the fascist-led Rada’s order that the Ukrainian Army march on and take control of the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine’s east, the Donbas and Luhansk regions in particular, proved to be disastrous. In these regions, the Ukrainian Army instantly dissolved and joined the anti-coup forces loyal to the elected government. The same with the armed forces in largely Russian speaking Crimea. In both cases the soldiers near unanimously declared themselves part of Russia’s military. In a matter of days, the fascist-led forces proved incapable of imposing their will on Ukraine’s east.
10) Indeed, it took eight years and massive training and armaments provided by U.S./NATO forces, again, accompanied by US-financed private troops of the Blackwater type and paid foreign mercenary fighters from 28 countries, to prepare for their planned conquest of eastern Ukraine. By 2022 these forces amassed some 280,000 troops poised to invade the Donbas and Luhansk regions. In the course of this long-term preparation, between 2014 and 2022, the Ukrainian coup government’s troops slaughtered 14,000 Russian-speaking people and wounded 50,000 more, while causing 700,000 to flee to Russia for safety.
The US-aborted Minsk Protocols
11) Having failed to instantly conquer all of Ukraine in 2014, the fascist-led coup government and its successors were compelled to engage in a series of negotiations referred to as the Minsk Protocols. Signed on Sept. 5, 2014 and Feb. 12, 2015, after negotiations between the Ukrainian coup government, Russia, Germany and France, they were purportedly aimed at stopping the bloodshed via a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines, release of prisoners of war, and a Ukrainian constitutional reform granting self-government to specified areas, including the Donbas and Luhansk regions. In practice, none of these Minsk Protocols were implemented, as the Ukrainian Army’s ceaseless incursions into the regions aimed at subjugation and conquest as opposed to pursuit of a negotiated settlement. Some 100 “ceasefire” agreements were repeatedly violated, while the now fascist-led Ukrainian military wreaked untold horrors and devastation on the Russian-speaking population.
12) Pressured by the US, the Ukrainian government refused to implement the Minsk-projected elections in Luhansk and Donetsk. Endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution, the essence of the Minsk accords was to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine via a federated process that would return the breakaway republics in exchange for their local autonomy. The latter implied that the resources of the federated areas, especially the vast fossil fuel reserves, and access to pipelines, would be under the control of local/regional governments, and likely be shared between the contending forces, a proposition that the US outright rejected. The US corporate elite had set their sights on Ukraine’s eastern fossil fuel reserves, the fourth largest in the world. With the US destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines it has now become clear that a qualitatively more ambitious and lucrative US conquest is in progress, planned long in advance. This centers on the multi-trillion dollar US gambit to permanently substitute expensive US-fracked Liquefied Natural Gas for Russia’s cheaper [half the US price] fossil fuels that has prior to Nord Stream’s US obliteration had supplied nearly half of Western Europe’s needs. Yet another US oil war if there ever was one!
US/NATO prepares Ukraine for war
13) By early 2022 Ukraine’s massive US/NATO-provided arms and refurbished armies were poised to impose their final solution, that is, the annihilation of the resisting Russian-speaking population and permanently securing eastern Ukraine’s fossil fuel and agricultural riches for US corporate control. Russia’s response was predictable. Russian troops invaded, no doubt for multiple reasons – to defend the right of Ukraine’s vast Russian-speaking people, 30 percent of Ukraine’s population, to exist – their right to self-determination – to prevent US/NATO forces from establishing nuclear-armed bases directly on Russia’s borders, and to continue negotiations with Ukraine’s government aimed at reaching an accord along the lines of the Minsk protocols.
14) Putin’s massive invasion, his reactionary rhetoric about restoring Russia’s Czarist-era fatherland and his presiding over a qualitatively weakened lesser capitalist-imperialist state notwithstanding, aimed at compelling a quick return to the bargaining table. His choices were extremely limited – either stand down and allow the slaughter of the Russian-speaking population, the USA-imperialist sequestration of Ukraine’s massive fossil fuel resources and the establishment of a NATO affiliate with nuclear missiles less than five minutes from Moscow, or invade and press for a quick negotiated settlement. Putin’s invasion, according to the independent and often New York Times-quoted, Russian polling organization, Levada, was supported by more than 83 percent of the population, up from 69 percent prior to Russia’s invasion. No doubt the constant flow of Russian-speaking and other beleaguered immigrants from Ukraine won the hearts and minds of Russia’s population. Putin’s popularity notwithstanding, there can be no justification for his brutal repression of antiwar dissent. In the US, Biden’s repression takes on the character of the classic iron fist in a velvet glove, wherein the virtual monopoly of the corporate media enforces an Orwellian consensus, aimed at justifying the overwhelming bi-partisan and ever-increasing tens of billions of dollars funneled into the coffers of the US war machine to keep the war going forever. We add here that Biden’s approval ratings, at barely 36 percent, inform us in Shakespeare’s words, “All is not well in Denmark.”
Russia’s fundamental miscalculation
Yet, Putin’s calculations regarding the likely outcome of a massive Russian invasion have proved to be fundamentally off the mark. These were based on the calculation that an initial overwhelming Russian show of force aimed at instantly crippling Ukraine’s capacity to respond, would be quickly followed by a negotiated settlement along the lines of the Minsk Protocols. But, neither Putin, nor the most astute observers anywhere, considered that US imperialism aimed at shunning any and all negotiations. Keeping the Ukraine War going indefinitely, in accord with the recently coined horrifying expression, “Until the last Ukrainian is dead,” is today’s US imperialist unswerving orientation. Whether Russia invaded to legitimately protect the beleaguered Russian-speaking population, or whether its intentions were to defend their fossil fuel investments that had previously prevailed under the pre-coup government, or whether Russia simply opposed US nuclear weapons on its borders, all legitimate concerns in this writer’s view, that US imperialism, from day one, has always been the central protagonist, is indisputable. The recent US obliteration of Nord Stream 1 and 2 and the destruction of Russia’s land link bridge to Crimea have made this crystal clear. We conclude:
US Out Now! U.S. Hands off Ukraine! Abolish NATO!
Self-determination for the people of Donbas/Luhansk! For an independent socialist Ukraine
No to U.S.-backed fascist coups and the establishment of U.S. puppet governments!
No to U.S. oil wars everywhere! $Billions for human needs; not a penny for war!
For a rapid transition to a safe, clean, fossil fuel free worker-controlled energy system that guarantees quality jobs and security for all!
Close all military bases the world over, beginning with the 1,100 U.S. bases in 110 countries, followed by Russia’s seven bases and China’s single base in Djibouti!
[Jeff Mackler is the National Secretary of Socialist Action and Socialist Action’s 2016 and 2020 candidate for the US presidency. He is a member of the Administrative Committee of UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition) and a member of the Steering Committee of Assangedefense.org. He can be reached at socialistaction.org or firstname.lastname@example.org]