Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Return of the Cold War in Ukraine?


President Obama insists he does not regard the conflict in Ukraine “as some Cold War chessboard in which we are in competition with Russia.”

He’d be more credible if he were not following his predecessors in acting as though the Cold War still exists. Although the Soviet empire, including its Warsaw Pact alliance, disbanded beginning in 1989, Republican and Democratic presidents have pursued aggressively anti-Russian policies up to the present.

Most glaringly, NATO, the Western alliance created after World War II ostensibly to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, did not also disband. On the contrary, at U.S. insistence and in violation of promises to Russia’s leaders, the alliance has grown and found new missions, such as intervening militarily against Russia’s ally Serbia and in Afghanistan and Libya.

That would have been bad enough, but former members of the Soviet bloc, as well as former Soviet republics, have been admitted to NATO: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Besides that, U.S. officials have talked up two other former Soviet republics, Georgia and — surprise! — Ukraine, as potential members of the alliance.

Moreover, the U.S. government had a hand in the Georgian and Ukrainian “color revolutions,” which brought pro-U.S. politicians to power, at least for a time. The Obama administration is still at it today.

The hostile push of NATO up to the doorstep of Russia (along with other threatening measures) has not gone unnoticed in Moscow. One can imagine the howls we’d hear from American politicians, not least of all the ever-belligerent Sen. John McCain, if Russia were doing something similar in the vicinity of the United States.

The sorry fact is that America’s rulers did much more than spike the football when the Soviet Union peacefully disintegrated. In every conceivable way, they exploited the occasion to assure that the United States would maintain its status as sole superpower and global hegemon. They humiliated Russia’s leadership, apparently not caring that it would never passively accept the insult.

It’s about time American politicians saw how their foreign policies look to those on the receiving end.

What’s happening in Ukraine is sad. The country is divided between those who want closer ties to Western Europe and those who want closer ties to Russia. Since becoming independent of Russia, Ukraine has suffered corruption and worse offenses at the hands of legal plunderers. Now demonstrations in the streets — even mob rule featuring neo-Nazis — have resulted in turmoil and death, and the Russia-leaning president, Viktor Yanukovich, has fled the capital, while the parliament has named an interim replacement. To make things worse, outsiders won’t keep their hands off.

One thing we can know for sure — and one need not be an admirer of Russian president Vladimir Putin to see it — is that the United States should steer clear of Ukraine. It is none of the U.S. government’s business whether that country is economically closer to Russia or the European Union (EU). The Obama administration should not only forswear direct and covert intervention, it should also shut up. American presidents must learn to mind their own business, even where Russia is concerned.

It would be best if Russia and the EU did not press agreements on Ukraine – Europe appears more guilty here than Putin – but that is not for the U.S. government to decide. Someday, if we’re lucky, people will stop thinking of trade as a matter of state policy. Why must Ukraine — meaning its politicians — sign an agreement with either the EU or Russia? Why can’t individual Ukrainians and private Ukrainian companies trade freely with whomever they want? (This question also applies to America and every other country.)

There are many sources of political tension in the world, but historically a principal one has been the idea that governments must set the terms of trade with people in other nations. Bad idea. Free trade should mean individual freedom.

In the meantime, the Obama administration should steer clear of Ukraine. Despite what Americans have believed for over 200 years, the United States was not placed on this earth to right the world. Intervention is more likely to make things worse than better.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (


Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”