Can We Awaken Enough To Avoid Extinction?

Photo by Maria Oswalt

Recently Sweden, celebrated for its commitment to “neutrality” joined NATO as its 32nd member and immediately engaged in “defense” training exercises with all of its Scandinavian neighbors as well as U.S. Marines. One marine was quoted as saying that “we are ready to fight when they come.” Recently Senator John Thune, (r. South Dakota and touted as possible replacement for Mitch McConnell)) said that NATO had to be strengthened with new arms along Ukraine’s borders with Russia “or else we may have to send our own boys and folks won’t like that.”  In centuries past Sweden was a bellicose and imperial power and had aggressively invaded Russia and blocked its access to the Baltic Sea.

Amidst all the hype about the illegality of Russia’s re-annexation of Crimea and its illegal war nothing is said about the historical fact that for centuries European nations have been warring and seizing each other’s territories. In contravention of the United Nations the U.S. jumped into the act when it supported the breakup of Yugoslavia and later the secession of Kosovo which had been part of Serbia for 700 years. Well before the coup that overthrew the elected pro-Russian government in 2014 Washington had been arming and training the Ukrainian military with “the goal to produce NATO level military interoperability ” (Benjamin Abelow, How the West Brought War To Ukraine).

In all the hysterical dissimulation over Darth Putin’s malevolence and dire threat to western civilization a central historical fact has been disappeared: the last time Russian forces were in western Europe, with the exception of East Germany in 1945 for obvious reasons, was in 1814 after Napoleon’s equivalently illicit invasion when they drove the French dictator to defeat and briefly entered Paris, then to return to Mother Russia. Since then Russia has been invaded twice from the west with millions of casualties and consequences. If Americans could imagine such a bloodbath on American soil we might be able to see why Russia has set its “red line” on NATO and Ukraine. Under no circumstances would the U.S. allow foreign forces in the Western hemisphere. The near extinction events of 1962 demonstrate that.

Under International law there is no doubt that Putin’s assault on Ukraine is illegal but the hypocrisy emanating from Washington is appalling Yes, tragically the deaths and casualties of the “special military operation” are in the hundreds of thousands on both sides. Yet we ignore at our peril the hideous illegal wars waged in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wherein the U.S. caused the fatalities of well over ten million human beings, all mere pawns in the planetary geo-political power game. The deadly game continues: more sacrificial victims yet to  come?

Despite the viral ideological contagion now infecting “the West” about the peril the demonic Putin poses, Russia isn’t going to be invading Scandinavia or Ukraine or any NATO country: Nor vice versa unless we do collectively lose our sanity. The reasons are many but the most consequential is that should they, or we, do so we shall all be extinct shortly thereafter. If there is a malevolent war-mongering shadow looming over Europe (and the world) it emanates from an agenda long basting in Washington since the U.S. became an international and economic power during World War I but especially after it emerged as overdog after Round Two in 1945. At the core of the immediate existential danger to our species is The BOMB. Neither world war has taught the lessons needed to save us from the third.

Many of the Bomb’s primary scientific creators realized their folly and warned our species that it was the overriding threat to our future existence and that all measures had to be taken to ensure it would never be used again. None of the nations armed with thousands of nukes today learned the lesson. Despite hopes for normal relations between the two superpowers after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 the U.S has abrogated most of the treaties designed to limit the dangers of nukes, thereby ramping up the potential for nuclear war.  I insist that so long as nuclear weapons exist sooner or later they will be used. Take your pick: slow extinction via climate disaster, the only solution to which is honest and intense international cooperation, or instant nuclear annihilation.

The U.S. and Russia were allies of a sort during World War II but had quite opposite visons for its aftermath. For Russia national security guarantees became paramount to ensure that anything remotely resembling Germany’s invasion could never again occur. For Washington the goal was mastery of a new global geo-political and economic order.

The Hollywood film “Oppenheimer” ignores (among many vital issues especially the desolation A-Bombs wrought), the resignation of Joseph Rotblat, a prominent scientist engaged in the Manhattan Project. Once he realized that Germany would not be able to create its own Bomb he perceived the weapon as immoral. As he asserted in an article published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (August 1985), he made his decision when he heard General Leslie Groves, the military commander of the bomb project, state categorically that the “that the new rationale for the U.S. nuclear project was To Subdue The Soviet Union “

Groves asserted the same on various occasions. Of course, Russian intelligence became aware of such statements. Later, as many scientists and others raised serious objections to future developments of the Bomb, they were ignored. Russia meanwhile knew of the U.S. bomb project and understood that if the bomb was successful it would be employed as the primary measure of American postwar power in its blueprint to reconfigure the geo-politics of planet Earth. Virtually on the day Japan surrendered Stalin accelerated the Soviet Bomb project

Most citizens are also inculcated since childhood with the false belief that the Atomic desolations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely necessary to end the war. In fact, Washington had broken Japan’s communication codes and knew that Tokyo was seeking an end to its war via secret communications with Moscow. At that point Russia was not involved in the war against Japan. But Stalin desired revenge for Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and he agreed with the U.S. to enter the Asian War after Germany’s surrender.

Now Washington had a problem. Before the Bomb, the Truman Administration believed it required Russian participation in the invasion of Japan. As originally conceived such an incursion was expected to be enormously costly in lives. Even so a full-scale operation was probably not possible until early 1946. By August 1945 the Soviets mobilized and rapidly overran northern China and Korea, signaling further intent by taking a few remote Japanese islands. Would Washington have to accept U.S.-Soviet co-occupation of Japan? That would mean the same agonistic issues then emerging from the co-occupation of Germany and Europe. The Atomic bombings were not “necessary” to defeat Japan but to beat Russia to the prize and send a clear message about American ruthlessness in its geo-political goals. By September of 1945 only the U.S. ruled Japan.

How many Americans know that the Red Army willingly withdrew from China, and Iran and Austria after the war? So much for the falsehood that the USSR was intent on global conquest. It is essential to note that American forces did not occupy South Korea by force. The Soviets had defeated Japanese forces on mainland Asia not the U.S. and then enabled American troops to occupy the South when Stalin consented to co-occupation with the U.S. coupled with agreement that elections would be held and the Koreans would decide their future. However, the only real native Korean resistance throughout Japanese rule had come from the Korean communists. The U.S. knew where that would lead so it maintained Korea’s division, prevented elections, and ruled the South with the same Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese, thereby setting in motion the full-scale Korean War of 1950 with four million deaths. An armistice was reached in 1954, the same year the Hydrogen Bomb was developed. It is technically still “on” and North Korea’s acquisition of nukes today intensifies and accelerates the already extreme danger of nuclear war.

Now, what has all this to do with the current crisis in Ukraine?  First, some essential background. In 1918 it became clear in Washington that the Bolsheviks would not cooperate with western plans for the post-war so American and allied forces were dispatched but failed to  strangle the new communist baby in its cradle. During WWII Ukrainian Nazis allied with Germany murdered many Soviets in both Ukraine and Russia, and at least 100,000 Jews as well. As relations worsened between the Soviets and U.S in the post-war the newly established Central Intelligence Agency recruited many such genuine Ukrainian fascists opposed to communist rule and in 1948-49 injected armed guerrillas into Ukraine in an absurd and failed attempt to overthrow the Soviet regime there. We can bet that the Russians have never forgotten these episodes of direct American intervention and the many others that have continued to this day.

Should Washington have been surprised that 1949 was also the year the USSR acquired its own BOMB.

In 1922 Lenin turned the area known as the Donbas over to Ukraine to enlarge its agricultural and industrial potential as part of the new Soviet Union. In 1954 then Soviet Premiere Khrushchev turned Crimea over to Ukraine to bolster ties between the two Soviet republics. Facts on the ground are that much of the population of these territories are ethnically Russian and see themselves as part of Greater Russia. The transfer of territory to Ukraine within the structure of the Soviet system safeguarded the Soviet Fleet headquartered in Crimea. However, by the late 1980s as the Soviet system collapsed,  the security and integrity of the naval base at Sebastopol was threatened. Washington moved to seize advantage, pressuring Moscow to allow German reunification. Then Soviet Premiere Gorbachev enabled that reunification in what was touted as the end of the Cold War with a promise from Secretary of State James Baker…

“…not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.” 

The utter, unashamed and perilous betrayal of that warrant to Russia that NATO would not be enlarged is central to the crisis over Ukraine today. In 1998 NATO comprised 16 members. Then in 1999 the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, all substantially east of Germany, were admitted. By 2024 the number had risen to thirty-two.

Russian memory of and apprehension of any threat from the West is all but genetically ingrained in its population. In 1991 as political order disintegrated Ukraine became an independent state for the first time and retained Crimea as its territory with no Russian objection at that time. Meanwhile, both the Russian and Ukrainian economies collapsed. American advisers flooded Moscow and “guided” the corrupt Yeltsin regime to an almost instant conversion of the Soviet system to unregulated capitalism, which then set off an economic collapse that dwarfed even the American Great Depression, vastly demolishing the living standards of ordinary Russians while creating a new oligarchy of wealth and corruption. For a time it seemed that Russia’s economy would be folded into the “rules-based international order” sponsored by Wall Street, the World Bank/IMF, the European Union and NATO. Then in opposition to the American-backed and corrupt Yeltsin, Putin initiated Russia’s own version of oligarchical capitalism in opposition to Wall Street’s dreams. Putin’s measures actually unwound Yeltsin’s sellout and substantially improved economic conditions (contributing to majority support in Russia for Putin to this day).

Certainly, Putin’s Russia is a dictatorial state but Washington has propped up far bloodier regimes too many times to count. The issue is always whether dictators cooperate with the American global agenda.

Almost as soon as independence Ukraine descended into political civil strife while organized crime ran rampant. Ukraine was judged the “most corrupt state in Europe.” Meanwhile, Washington’s agents worked to bring Ukraine into the European Union (EU) with open discussions about its entry into NATO as well. Much of Ukraine’s Western population supported such measures while predominantly Russian speakers in the East were opposed.  At that point, Putin’s issued his “red line” warning on Ukraine’s admittance to NATO. Even the U.S. ambassador to Russia, William Burns declared that the U.S. must take Russia’s warning seriously or face wider war and the threat of nuclear escalation.  Now Burns directs the CIA?

In 2010 pro-Russian Victor Yanukovych was elected by a small margin and turned against the American and EU-led program of loans his supporters perceived as detrimental to Ukraine’s finances and opted for better terms offered by Russia. This set off massive and extremely violent protests in the capital of Kiev in 2014 that were openly and intensely supported and armed by the U.S. State Department and CIA that led to Yanukovych’s violent overthrow. At that point Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland was recorded as she openly chose the new interim president for Ukraine.

Intense conflict broke out in the Donbas between actual neo-Nazis, who had longstanding and serious influence in Ukraine since WWII, and supporters of Yanukovych that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 14,000. Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine met and successively crafted the Minsk Agreements ostensibly to ward off war that called for limited autonomy in the Donbas region where most of the public had voted for Yanukovych. However, as Germany’s president Angela Merkel revealed, these were measures intended to “buy time” for Ukraine to build up military force. After that Russia decided to re-annex Crimea, mobilized its forces and began its “special military operation.”

In 2019 popular television comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky, was put up as a “peace candidate” for Ukraine’s presidency, campaigned to end the conflict in Donbas, and won over 70% of the vote. This was an enormous mandate to make peace. Some believe Zelensky was bluffing to win time for Ukraine’s military buildup and others note the words of late Soviet-American specialist, Prof. Stephen Cohen…

…there are opponents of this (peace) in Ukraine and they are armed. Some people say they are fascist, but they are certainly ultra-nationalist, and they have said that they will remove and kill  Zelensky if he continues along this line of negotiating with Putin…

The war continues with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Millions have fled to nearby nations stressing them to their limits. Ukraine’s vital infrastructure is destroyed. Ever more Washington insiders realize that Ukraine cannot win this war and is well on way to become a “failed state.” Many including senior military planners want to turn American attention to the “threat” posed by the  ”adversary” China to the independence of Taiwan and continue extremely hazardous provocations across the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile, the Middle East volcano verges on eruption. The imperative international cooperation necessary to address the looming existential crises on the horizon is all but lifeless.

Paul Atwood is the author of War and Empire: the American Way of Life.