In the West there is declining support for the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war evidenced by the NATO-Ukraine Rammstein conference, embattled US president Joe Biden’s speech at the UN opening assembly, and during Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s Washington visit, and the Polish-Ukrainian rift signals another. And this is none other then another reflection of the West leading the Ukrainian lamb to slaughter. Of course, it is Russia that has directly leveled damage on Ukraine most of all, and Ukrainians’s anger at Russia can be understood on a human, if not political level. But the West, most of all Washington, D.C., has leveled as much damage on Ukraine indirectly. And naturally Ukraine lacks the innocence and meekness of a lamb. Indeed, there is much unsavory about Ukraine’s Maidan regime, its leadership, and its plethora of ultra-nationalists and neofascist, but that does not have to mean that on occasion it is not on the right side. Regardless, in the emerging mutual recriminations between Washington, Brussels, Berlin, and Warsaw, on the one hand, and Kiev, on the other, it is the latter, the proverbial lamb, that has a point.
And who would deny Ukraine, Ukrainians, and even the sad clown of geopolitical tragedy, Volodomyr Zelenskiy, at least some compassion and sympathy? The country is experiencing hundreds of thousands of war dead and wounded, millions in external emigration, millions more internal refugees, tens of thousands of amputees, loss of 20 percent of its territory and 30 percent of its economy over the last decade. The anguish of this ruin is reflected in the increasingly flailing, erratic statements of Zelenskiy himself. In recent weeks he has claimed that Russia builds faulty nuclear plants across the world as potential dirty bombs, has kidnapped hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children, and will weaponize climate change (Zelenskiy’s 21 September 2023 UN speech, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/20/full-text-zelenskyys-speech-to-the-un-general-assembly). Then there is Zelenskiy’s threatening signal to Ukrainian immigrants to Europe that should the West abandon Ukraine’s cause, they might stop behaving themselves. This threat becomes all the more ominous when one takes into account, for example, the long history of Polish-Russian conflict and antagonism and Poland’s recent termination of all social welfare benefits for Ukrainian refugees from the war, the war of words between Zelenskiy and Poland’s president Andrzej Duda, and Warsaw’s abrupt termination of weapons assistance to Kiev. Nevertheless, there should be at least some sympathy for an inexperienced politician who fully unprepared entered a monumental, historical conflict between great giants: the West and Russia. He is not the first to fall in between east and west and will not be the last. Worse yet, his failures in this situation are leading to the destruction of his country. The sad clown is becoming a most apt metaphor for Mr. Zelenskiy.
This is all rooted in the West’s incessant push to expand NATO and particularly to Ukraine. The West pushed Ukraine to the frontline in its confrontation with Russia. The West chose to create, heat up and heat up some more this conflict, all the while nudging Ukraine in front of itself as a battering ram to defend NATO’s right to expand when and where it chooses. NATO and its army of official and academic minions falsely claimed that Russia really did not care about NATO expansion because it was not a threat to Russia. NATO would seek to avoid at all costs a shooting war with nuclear powerhouse Russia but threaten it with a NATO Ukraine. Yet the West had already used this approach to disastrous results for another state bordering Russia. In the mid-2000s, Georgia experienced a US backed ‘color revolution in order to install an anti-Russian, pro-NATO government in Tbilisi. NATO then prepared Georgia’s military for the skill sets and interoperability needed for NATO membership. Without open US support, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili decided to use his new and improved army to recover Georgia’s two breakaway republics of South Ossetiya and Abkhaziya, attacking the former’s capitol of Tskhinvali with hundreds of inaccurate Grad missiles, killing tens if not hundreds of Ossetiyan civilians and 19 Russian peacekeeping troops. Russia sent in its troops and defeated the Georgian army to preserve South Ossetiya’s breakaway autonomy while refraining from attacking or seizing Georgia proper despite the fact that Russian forces were within 60 miles of a largely undefended Tbilisi. Russia then recognized the independence of both South Ossetiya and Abkhaziya. US and NATO involvement had emboldened a weak Georgia, the leadership of which mistakenly calculated that in any conflict with Moscow the West would intervene militarily or otherwise to protect Georgia. This is not how things worked out.
In Ukraine, the West, led by a hubristic Washington, did all it could to draw Kiev out of Russia’s orbit, despite the deep historical, cultural, economic, and even political ties between the two countries or at least between Russia and parts of Ukraine, most notably Crimea. It insisted on Ukraine’s NATO and EU membership, despite the damage this would do to Russian economic interests and national security. It maneuvered to install an anti-Russian regime in Kiev both in 2005 and in 2014 and encouraged or at least tolerated the rise of intensely anti-Russian ultra-nationalist and neofascist elements in the state and society, while denying that this was a significant factor or a trend at all. It ignored Kiev’s growing discrimination against ethnic Russians and the Russian language. It did nothing to nudge Kiev to fulfill the Minsk accords, while it armed Ukraine against Russia’s national interests. It convinced Kiev not to continue successful peace talks with Moscow in March 2022, promising Ukraine the military support it would need to fight the powerful Russian army and thus ‘earn’ NATO membership and protect NATO’s right to eternal expansion.
But now as the going against Moscow’s growing military strength has proven beyond Ukraine’s power, despite a courageous battle, and even beyond the West’s capacity or at least willingness to provide the necessary upgrade in assistance because of the economic difficulties, political consequences, and ‘burden’ this would require Western societies to bear, the West is cutting back assistance while speaking of a ‘long war’. But how is Ukraine to fight this long war? Without the West being ‘all in’, supporting Ukraine not only as long as it takes but as much as it takes, Ukraine cannot hold out against the Russian juggernaut that is closing in upon it; a juggernaut unleashed precisely because of Western provocations and escalations. This war is not Putin’s ‘unprovoked’ war.
Yet Washington insists on holding out the ‘treat’ or ‘holy grail’ of Ukraine’s membership in NATO ‘after victory’! In other words, Ukrainians are being asked to bear an even greater, more torturous burden to protect NATO’s right to expand. This week’s NATO-Ukraine Rammstein summit produced little in the way of new arsm for Kiev: perhaps enough to last Ukraine’s armed forces some two months. US President Joe Biden delivered a labored, weak-lunged, and weak-kneed speech at the UN’s opening session in New York, devoting less than two minutes out of a twenty-five minute speech to the struggle Ukraine is burdening at Washington’s behest—a struggle Western leaders from Washington to Warsaw have portrayed as a new ‘twilight struggle’ between democratic good and authoritarian evil.
But it is election time in what is now a manifestly decaying, corrupt, arrogant, and weak American republic. Flailing Joe Biden and the decrepit Washington elite need shoring up, being threatened by impeachment, Hunter Biden’s and perhaps his own imprisonment (however unlikely), his party’s loss of power, and the failure of the quest to overthrow the American republican system and establish a de facto single party-dominant regime by way of the Democrat Party-state’s revolution from above. Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people are a side show, a ‘political football’ in this, the main event.
Thus, the courageous champions of freedom and democracy stood behind the back of Ukraine (and Georgia), using her as a kind of human shield to insulate the West from any threat from Russia that pushing NATO expansion and enticing Kiev to the alliance might spark. In this way, today’s America, its elite and foreign policy display a curious antinomy of hubris and cowardice, deceptively recruiting others to fight its neo-imperial battles.
In the past other ‘small fries’ also have run into the problem of American miscalculation and abandonment at a time when the American republic was still vibrant and produced statesmen: the South Vietnamese, the Iraqi Shia, the Iraqi Kurds, Afghanistan’s quasi-republican opponents of the Taliban. As noted, Georgia is the most recent, pre-Ukrainian case.
What can Ukrainians expect now? Nothing good. But there is always the possibility of becoming a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, if not this year, then there is always next year. The comedy and simulacra of Zelenskiy and the Maidan regime, respectively, are about to become a most tragic reality for the Ukrainian state and people. Ceasefire and peace talks are Ukraine’s only salvation from the altar built for Russia by Washington and Brussels upon which the Ukrainian lamb will be sacrificed for NATO’s right to eternal expansion: ‘For as long as it takes’ to lead the Ukrainian lamb to sacrificial slaughter.
EUROPE BOOKS, 2022
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2021
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2018
About the Author –
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.