Guest article by Mark H. Gaffney
Scarcely three months into his presidency, Joe Biden is “leading” the world to the brink of nuclear war over Ukraine. In February, Biden insisted that the US would never accept the Russian annexation of Crimea. Even though 95% of Crimeans voted in 2014 to return to Russia, Biden continues to describe the annexation as “aggression” and an “invasion.” Democratic referendums apparently are irrelevant if Washington disapproves of the outcome.
Nor did the Russians invade. At the time, Russian troops were already stationed in Crimea by an earlier agreement with the previous elected Ukrainian government. This kind of distorted history has become standard today in what passes for journalism in the West on any issue involving Russia.
Recently, president Biden had the impertinence to describe Vladimir Putin as a “killer.” I say impertinence because in 2002 Senator Biden himself was the most vocal promoter in the US Senate of the 2003 Iraq War that killed at least a million Iraqis. As Putin put it, “it takes one to know one.”
And when Putin responded to Biden’s “killer” comment by wishing the US president good health and offering to meet with him to discuss world events, Biden brusquely dismissed the offer, saying he was “quite busy.” Well informed people probably gagged at the remark, given Biden’s scaled back work schedule and his visibly worsening mental impairment.
At any event, as I write, events in Ukraine are approaching ignition. One week ago, Ukrainian president Zelensky withdrew from the Minsk peace process. And days later, Zelensky essentially declared war on Russia by issuing a decree stating that, if necessary, Crimea will be liberated from Russian control through military action. Zelensky also called on the West to expedite Ukraine’s entry into NATO. Should this occur, it would obligate a NATO military response in the event of war. Following his plea, there were a series of emergency meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Since 2014, at least 14,000 Russians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Over seven years, the Ukrainian army has been shelling and terrorizing the Russian towns and communities that lie east of the line of control. The western press has hardly covered any of this violence. When it does, Russia is typically blamed.
As I write, a military buildup is underway across the region. Russian and Ukrainian forces are massing on both sides of the border. The other day, Kremlin officials described the situation along the front line as “unstable” and “terrifying.” Yet, Biden and his advisers appear determined to throw gas on the fire. Days ago, Biden ordered two US destroyers into the Black Sea where a Russian naval buildup is also underway. The US ships were to pass through the Bosporus on April 14-15.
It is certainly true that the Black Sea is an international waterway. The US Navy has the right to sail there. But given all that has transpired, is it really wise to risk a nuclear showdown with Russia over a regional dispute that surely cannot be vital to US national interests. US officials have never explained why liberating Crimea and eastern Ukraine are so important to Americans.
Why is Biden engaging in brinksmanship?
The reason is simple, though it is never mentioned in the western press. Biden and his advisers hope to provoke Russia into a rash military action. They intend to score a propaganda coup by branding Putin as the aggressor. This will enable them to ratchet up enormous political pressure on Germany to cancel the Nordstream II gas pipeline, which is 95% complete. The pipeline starts in northern Russia near St. Petersburg and runs beneath the Baltic Sea to Germany. When finished, the capacious pipeline will provide Germany (and Europe) with abundant cheap natural gas. But Biden’s team views the pipeline as an existential threat to US hegemony in Europe. And it seems they are prepared to take the world to the nuclear brink to prevail on the issue.
Over the years, the US has already expended enormous political capital to force a halt to the Nordstream project. Western intelligence agencies have gone to elaborate lengths, cooking up one scam after another, to increase pressure on the German government. Some examples are the alleged 2018 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, supposedly by Russian agents, and the more recent case of dissident Alexei Navalny who was also allegedly targeted with the same Russian-made nerve agent used on the Skripals, known as Novichok. Despite the sensational charges, media storm, and hyped expulsion of Russian diplomats, both stories have since unraveled. Western intelligence agencies failed to explain how the Skripals and Navalny managed to survive Novichok’s extreme toxicity. The substance is so lethal that even the first responders and doctors who came in contact with the alleged victims should also have died. Does anyone believe that the Russians are so incompetent they failed repeatedly to assassinate their alleged victims using their own nerve agent?
The smear campaigns may have persuaded Americans, but they failed where it matters most, in Germany.
The US wants to supply Germany with liquified natural gas from North America delivered by tankers at a much higher price. This would make Germany permanently dependent on more expensive US natural gas, while Nordstream II would liberate Germany from US political controls and influence.
The problem for Washington is that the German government has not budged. And a recent poll shows why. Despite all of the attempts to discredit Putin, 67% of Germans still support completion of the Nordstream II project. Typically well informed, the Germans understand that the pipeline is vital to their country and to Europe. It’s a safe bet they also see through the CIA’s transparent propaganda.
It is noteworthy that the US-backed 2014 coup that toppled the previous government in Kiev occurred immediately after then-Ukrainian president Yanukovitch had rejected an economic package offered by the European Union (also backed by the US), and instead signed onto a deal with Russia that was much more favorable to Ukraine. The timing was significant. It was at this point that Washington gave the green light for the coup. After which, the US moved into Ukraine with its own economic “reforms.” Monsanto, for example, ever eager to increase its market share, began buying up large tracts of fertile Ukrainian farmland for the purpose of exporting its GMO poisons into the region.
After failing to block the pipeline using every covert scheme in the CIA and State Department playbook, the Biden team has now upped the stakes. Evidently they are prepared to risk World War III to maintain Germany’s current status as a US vassal. Controlling Germany is one of the keys to controlling Europe.
With regard to Ukraine becoming a member of NATO, entry into the Atlantic alliance is a lengthy process. A number of conditions must first be met and, given that Ukraine is an economic basket case, it is unlikely any of this has occurred. For this reason, Zelensky’s plea for expedited membership may not be feasible. Furthermore, Ukraine’s gloomy economic situation is about to worsen because one of its main sources of revenue is about to disappear.
The Nordstream II pipeline passes far to the north, bypassing Ukraine altogether, and for this reason the country stands to lose $billions in royalty fees it presently collects for Russian gas delivered to Europe across its territory. So, it is not surprising that Ukrainian officials have joined with Americans in calling for cancellation of the project.
At the time of his election in 2019, Ukraine president Zelensky promised to end the civil war and make peace with Russia. But the issues proved so intractable that positions on both sides have since hardened. Russia has no intention of ever relinquishing its only warm water port in Crimea, nor will the eastern provinces ever submit to control by Kiev. Putin has begun passing out Russian passports to residents of Luhansk and Donetsk, and this suggests Moscow could be contemplating the next step, namely, political reabsorption of both provinces back into Russia.
Given that Biden’s team is doing everything in their power to make a bad situation worse, Putin faces the greatest test of his political career. For many years, Putin has been a model of restraint vis a vis the West, so much so that today many Russians feel he has been too accommodating, especially in the face of continuing US hostility and warmongering. Not that Russians are spoiling for a fight. My research indicates otherwise. The Russian people have no appetite for war. After all, thirty million of their countrymen perished in the struggle against Nazi Germany. Russians understand the horrors of war far more acutely than do Americans. Although I believe Putin long ago ceased caring what Americans think of him, he knows that if he oversteps he risks antagonizing the Germans who could still decide to cancel Nordstream II. So, he must tread carefully. But if Ukraine forces the issue, the Russian military is prepared to act.
Assuming the pipeline is completed, I predict it will permanently change the political landscape of Europe, especially Germany’s relationship with the US and with Russia. The European balance of power will shift eastward. Russia and Germany are natural trading partners. Increased commerce between the two countries will insure the peace in Europe for many years to come. Relentless US attempts to block the emergence of this important trade relationship is a testament to failed US leadership dating back several decades.
Mark’s latest book is Deep History and the Ages of Man (2020). See also my reviews of his Black 9/11: Money, Motive, and Technology and The 9/11 Mystery Plane: And the Vanishing of America. and “One Question Before Us Is: Will We Be Destroyed in War Before We Lose Our Civil Liberty to the Establishment’s Orchestrated ‘Covid Pandemic’?” by Paul Craig Roberts.
In light of the information imparted in Gaffney’s article, the April 20 tweet by the U.S. Strategic Command seems rather ominous:
#USSTRATCOM Posture Statement Preview: The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.
The same thing can be said for the April 20 testimony of STRATCOM Commander, Admiral Charles Richard, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mark can be reached for direct comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.