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The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?

On Saturday September 7, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a prisoner swap which has brought hope of improved relations between the two countries and an end to the 5-year long conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

A peace accord is being planned for later this month in Normandy involving Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

Ukraine’s newly elected comedian president Volodymyr Zelensky called the prisoner exchange a “first step” in ending the war in Eastern Ukraine, which has killed an estimated 13,000 civilians.

The Ukraine War remains largely unknown to the American public even though the United States has had a great stake in it.

The war started after a coup d’états in Ukraine in February 2014, which overthrew the democratically elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovuch.

In a subsequent referendum, 89% in Donetsk and 96% in Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine voted for independence, which the new government of Petro Poroshenko government did not accept.

The United States was a heavy backer of the coup and dirty war that unfolded in the East.

Victoria Nuland, the head of the State Department’s European desk, traveled to Ukraine three times during the protests that triggered the coup, handing out cookies to demonstrators.

She told U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in a telephone conversation that was tapped and later leaked that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, neoliberal head of the “Fatherland” Party, should be Prime Minister as he was thought to have the “economic” and “governing experience.”

Nuland further revealed that the U.S. had invested over $5 billion in “democracy promotion” in Ukraine since 1991 through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was carrying on the kind of work previously undertaken by the CIA during the Cold War.

Ukraine has long been considered an important bridge between Eastern and Western Europe and holds lucrative oil and gas deposits.

NED president Carl Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step towards toppling [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

To help achieve this end, the Obama administration pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to the post-coup government in Ukraine, which Putin considered as the “ideological heirs of [Stephen] Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice in World War II.”

Swayed by a slick lobbying campaign backed by supporters of the Afghan mujahidin in the 1980s looking for a new cause and by the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus, the Obama administration further provided nearly $600 million in security assistance to the Ukrainian military.

It was supplied with counter-artillery radars, anti-tank systems, armored vehicles and drones in a policy expanded upon by Trump.

Before and after the Ukrainian military’s campaign began, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan, and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev, followed by a flow of senior Pentagon officials.

A back-door arms pipeline was set up through the United Arab Emirates and Blackwater mercenaries were allegedly deployed.

American military advisers embedded in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry provided rocket propelled grenades, carried out training exercises and planned military operations including with members of the fascist Azov battalion, which had Nazi-inspired Wolfsangel patches emblazoned on their sleeves.

Obama’s National Security adviser, Samantha Power, claimed that the [Ukrainian] governments “response [to alleged provocations by eastern rebels] [was] reasonable, it is proportional, and frankly it is what any of our countries would have done.”

The Ukrainian military and allied warlord and neo-Nazi militias were not acting reasonably or proportionally, however, when they carried out artillery and air attacks on cities and struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, hospitals and orphanages in Eastern Ukraine, and tortured and executed POWs in what amounted to clear war crimes.

NYU Professor Stephen Cohen notes that even The New York Times, which mainly deleted atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk living “as if in the Middle Ages.”

That the American public knows nothing of these events is a sad reflection of the superficiality of our media and decline in the quality of international news coverage.

It is also a testament to the failing of the political left, which has embraced the cause of immigrant and Palestinian rights and fighting climate change, legitimately, but neglected the plight of the Eastern Ukrainian people.

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Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018). 

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