Ukraine as Game Board

Image Source: Google Maps

Washington cares less about Ukrainian independence and sovereignty than Russia.  Its primary interest in the territory is its location right next to Russia; its other interests lie in the resources and markets a Ukraine under US influence offers.  Of course, the latter also helps explain Russia’s determination not to let NATO assimilate Kyiv and the country it is the capitol of.  If Washington was truly interested in the independence of the Ukrainian people, it would call for a resolution granting autonomy to the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, where a war for that region’s secession from Ukraine has been waging since at least 2014 when the US/NATO sponsored color rebellion overthrew the elected government in Kyiv.  It is that US-leaning government that Washington wants to preserve; a government first installed by US and NATO intelligence that may represent Ukrainian hopes, but certainly does not represent Ukrainian independence.  Only the Ukrainian people can determine that and their voice is both muffled and mixed.  Democratic socialists, unabashed capitalists looking towards the EU, families with old money stolen from the people after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, fascists whose legacy includes killing thousands of Jews and collaborating militarily with the Nazis, and millions of workers and farmers—these are the people of Ukraine.  In my mind it is the last demographic which should have the greatest say in their nation’s future.  However, if the rest of the world is any indication, their voice is the last to be heard.

The world watches as the squabble between US and Russia heats up.  Russia moves troops around its territory. Washington insists Moscow has no right to move those troops near Russia’s border with Ukraine.  The Pentagon is moving some of its forces closer to Russia’s borders: into Poland, Latvia, Lithuania among others.  Meanwhile, Kyiv continues to take its orders from Washington—which helped create the current political reality there when it openly intervened in the electoral process in 2014 as part of its expansion eastward via NATO after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The US conveniently insists that Cold War-style regions of influence are a relic of the past and that countries should be able to choose their own alliances. In other words, the US should be able to expand its empire wherever it wishes.  Moscow, for obvious reasons, disagrees.  The current debate over Ukraine is not about freedom for the Ukrainian people, but also about Moscow expanding its influence into Europe at Washington’s expense.  A prime example of this struggle is the Nordeast 2 natural gas line that enables Russian energy firms to transport and sell their resource to Germany and other European nations at a much cheaper rate than US energy firms can sell their product in the same markets.

Then there’s NATO.  The fact of its continued existence reveals much about its true intent. NATO is a tool of US empire; a military means to keep the nations in the alliance under D.C.’s dominion.  Like the Monroe Doctrine is unofficially to Latin America, NATO is to Europe.  Masquerading as a benevolent protector and equal alliance of nations, its true purpose is to engage other capitalist nations in Washington’s pursuit of hegemony.  While Washington continues to pretend that NATO exists to defend freedoms that only the United States can dispense, NATO continues to be part of the US empire’s armed wing.  This is truer now than at any time since the 1980s, when the Reagan White House moved nuclear missiles into Europe despite massive protests.

In the world of imperial politics, Russia has two very legitimate points—NATO needs to end its expansion and Russia has every right to move its troops around its territory and host war games anywhere on its territories.  After all, not only does the US have its military deployed in hundreds of countries around the world, it also hosts war games in countries that border its top two rivals—Russia and China.  Furthermore, many of the troops deployed in Europe are there in part to intimidate Russia. Since Washington has so far refused to either stop NATO expansion or pull back its missiles and other armaments from targeting Russia, Moscow is threatening to place some of its missiles in Cuba and Venezuela.

There’s only one word for this.  Madness.  Nationalism is like religion.  It provides identity and it provokes conflict.  It is also a very broad term which includes right and left wing factions and fantasies.  The history of Ukraine is filled with stories of its nationalist struggles.  Many, if not most are tales of reactionary and royalist dreams of a kingdom where only true Ukrainians live, but there are many others that speak of anarchist and communist utopias of peace and equal rights for all residents freed of foreign domination.  I wrote a piece in 2015 after the color revolution in Ukraine had succeeded according to its terms.  The last paragraph of that piece holds true today in 2022:

“The people of Ukraine are fighting battles in which they are ultimately pawns. Arming either side is cynical and manipulative and paves the way for an expansion of the war perhaps even beyond Ukraine’s borders. A truce should be agreed to that leaves all forces in place while the warring sides and their sponsors negotiate an end to the armed conflict. The motivation for this war resides in the desire to control resources and territory, directly and otherwise. Those Ukrainians desiring independence from Russia are seeing that desire being manipulated by Washington and local politicians with their own designs. Those desiring independence from the new Kiev government are experiencing a similar scenario. The longer the war continues, the more it will be influenced by Washington and Moscow. And the more blood will be spilled.”(2/23/2015)

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: