Ukraine a Pawn in a Larger Struggle - Vijay Prashad pt 1

The U.S. wants to remain a dominant force in Europe and see’s the Russian invasion of Ukraine as strengthening NATO, weakening Russia, and pushing back China. Russian aggression and U.S. provocation are risking nuclear war. Vijay Prashad joins Paul Jay on

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay and welcome to In a few seconds, I’ll be back with Vijay Prashad to talk about the crisis/conflict in Ukraine. Please don’t forget there’s a donate button, subscribe button, and all the buttons. Most importantly, get to the website and get on our email list. We’ll be back in just a few seconds.

So just before doing this interview, I was on the phone with my editor, who’s of Romanian descent. Up until a day before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he would have more or less agreed with all the critiques I usually make of U.S. imperialism, NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], quote-unquote the West and so on. He would have agreed with almost all of that critique. Well, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as I say, he’s of Romanian descent, he is now quite angry at me for any critique of NATO. He’s saying now is not the time to critique NATO. It’s now only time for solidarity with Ukraine, and he says if it wasn’t for NATO, he thinks Russia would then march from Ukraine into Romania.

Emotions are extremely inflamed on many different sides of this issue. There is a quite profound split on the Left, in Ukraine, in Russia, and around the world about who’s to blame and what’s taking place. In North America, the split on the Left, which I’m more familiar with, goes anywhere from sections of the Left who wholeheartedly support NATO, the arming of Ukraine and would like to, for some, even go further. Some even might support a no-fly zone, which I think is insanity.

On the other side, sections of people that say they’re Left, that poo-poo international law, find ways to justify the Russian invasion and at most call it a tactical error, which I also find kind of insane. As if Russia is some kind of socialist country that made a mistake. They more or less place Russia as part of this socialist world, which they include China, Venezuela, Cuba and some other countries. Russia, whatever you make of all those countries, Russia ain’t socialist. Russia’s anticommunist, anti-socialist. It’s a government that represents the oligarchy. It’s very immersed in Russian nationalism. It’s allied with the Russian Orthodox Church. [Vladimir] Putin has been, up until very recently and maybe still, a hero of the Christian nationalist in the United States. So I don’t see how one doesn’t critique both NATO, the West, and the Russian intervention because it’s all part of the decay and parasitism of global capitalism.

I was telling Vijay just a few seconds ago that I’m getting attacked from every side. I’m being accused of being pro-NATO. I’m being accused of being pro-Russia. It seems to me when I get attacked from everywhere, maybe I’m on the right track.

At any rate, now joining me is Vijay Prashad, who knows a lot more about these things than I do. Vijay is a historian, a journalist, and a commentator. He’s the executive director of the Tricontinel: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of LeftWord Books. His latest book is Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations. Thanks very much for joining me, Vijay.

Vijay Prashad

It’s always a pleasure, Paul. Always a pleasure.

Paul Jay

So we’re going to do three parts here. Roughly about half an hour each. We’re going to start with NATO and the West. I know my editor and Romanian friend will not like this. He’ll think we should start with the Russian invasion, and frankly, we could. The most immediate issue is the Russian invasion and the killing of civilians. International law is not, and this is something you know more about—much more than I do. International law is not there primarily to protect the sovereignty of governments. It’s to protect the sovereignty of people not to get attacked when the country invading isn’t under imminent threat. Let’s do that more in part two, when we’re really going to kind of break down why and what Russia is doing. Part three will be about the Ukrainian oligarchy and their responsibility in all of this, which is also great. We’re going to start with NATO and the West. What do you say to my Romanian friend who’s saying now is not the time to be critiquing NATO?

Vijay Prashad

Well, look, firstly, Paul, you’re quite right. This war, like all wars, is terrible, and wars often mostly end in negotiations. The only time war does not end as such, in negotiations, is when there’s been a total defeat of an adversary. In this case, it’s, I think, a fantasy to imagine a total defeat of Russia. I thought U.S. President Joe Biden’s statements about regime change in Russia were, in a sense, juvenile on one side. They don’t recognize or even absorb the fact that till now, credible polling houses in Russia say that Putin’s approval rating is in the 60% range, maybe up to 70%. Regime change there is not actually advisable, and it’s juvenile for that reason. It’s also adventurous to say that because it makes negotiation harder. Once you’ve said that we essentially want to get rid of you, then the appetite for negotiating is low. And you must negotiate because nobody can actually win a total victory here. You’re not going to get Berlin in 1945, where Berlin is bombed to smithereens. Adolf Hitler commits suicide in the bunker. The Nazis disappeared to South America and formed the West German intelligence services. That’s not going to happen here. So you actually need to move rather quickly to negotiation: ceasefire and negotiation.

The talk of Putin must go, follows [Bashar al-] Assad must go. And guess what? Mr. Assad just made a visit to the United Arab Emirates, where he was greeted with open arms by the U.A.E., one of the places from which Mr. Biden wants to secure natural gas to substitute for Russian natural gas in Europe. It should be a good reminder that Mr. Assad is still in power in Syria. Mr. Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela, remains in charge of Venezuela. So Maduro must go. Assad must go. Now, Putin must go. Not a very good track record. Not very smart politics.

So I would first say, let’s create the table for a ceasefire and for negotiations. Dial back the rhetoric, in which case it needs to be asked, why is the United States seeking not to dial back the tensions in Ukraine? In order to understand why the United States is actually egging on this conflict, why the United States is, in fact, poking at Mr. Putin personally and Russia in general, why are they doing this? Well, to understand that simply standing in solidarity with Ukraine explains nothing. You need to understand the role of U.S. power, the role of U.S. power in Europe and the instrument of U.S. power in Europe, which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO. Nato must be part of the conversation. It’s true you can stand in solidarity without understanding things, but if the point of our conversation is to understand the conflict and where it could go, then NATO must be an important piece of that conversation.

Paul Jay

So my thinking is the underlying issue here. This thing that’s often called the uneven development of capitalist countries. You also had uneven development of colonial powers. At one time, Portugal and Spain were the world powers. In the lead-up to World War II, it was clear Germany was going to become a major power in Europe but had nowhere to go. It had no colonies. To a large extent, the West wanted to suppress the development of Germany until they wanted to turn Germany into a weapon against the Soviet Union. That didn’t quite work out the way they thought it would.

Russia clearly has the potential at least to be as important an economy as Germany. If they weren’t so wedded to being a fossil fuel, military-industrial complex country and diversified their economy, they probably would be. What is it, double the population of Germany? I mean, Russia, by all right, should be a major power within Europe. In fact, if the United States and the West hadn’t tried to block that out in the late ’90s and early 2000s, maybe it could have been a player within Europe. But then Russia would have had to accept U.S. dominance, and they weren’t going to do that. The rest is kind of history. Do you think that makes some sense?

Vijay Prashad

Well, firstly, we need to understand what happened to Russia when the Soviet Union was unmade. It was unmade. I mean, living standards declined, life expectancy declined after the Soviet Union collapsed. Also, I mean, crucially, thousands, tens of thousands of scientists, but thousands of high mathematicians left the new Russia. First, the Community of Independent States and then Russia.

Paul, if you walked into a major U.S. bank in the 1990s, Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs and so on; in the technical department, you would have met many Russian mathematicians. They had taken refuge in the West because living standards declined and universities weren’t paying salaries. They’re the ones who manufactured a lot of these derivatives, quartz and all these sophisticated instruments in high finance. Russia actually lost. There was an attrition of the kind of intelligence built up during the Soviet Union. Many of the people in computer science left the country for Silicon Valley. So they suffered not only a decline in living standards but a brain drain. Significant brain drain.

Then as a consequence of the way in which Yeltsin was completely subordinate to the United States, Yeltsin governed the country from ’91 to ’99. Mr. Yeltsin allowed for the privatization of many of the natural resource arenas. Not only oil and natural gas but rare Earth metals and so on. The people who took control of this sector of the Russian economy suppressed the prices, and in a sense, globalization benefits because raw materials in the 1990s coming out of Russia were at a suppressed price. Whatever massive profits this section earned, they placed in Western banks.

In the 1990s, the West actually enormously benefited from the collapse of the U.S.S.R.. You have the high-tech scientists coming to the West. You got raw materials cheapened by the process of privatization inside the Soviet Union and then Russia. Then finally, the profits, the ill-gotten gains of these billionaires, were placed in Western banks and, crucially, in Cyprus. Cyprus was the principal destination for this money-exiting Russia. So in that sense, Russia was made into a natural resource supplier for the world. This is not necessarily something that they planned to do or chose. The process of the unmaking of the Soviet Union made Russia essentially into an exporter of natural gas, oil, rare Earth minerals and some other important metals and minerals.

Paul Jay

And arms.

Vijay Prashad

And arms, sure. Arms actually deteriorated in the immediate period. It recovered in the late 1990s; that’s why India moved from importing from Russia to importing from Israel and became Israel’s principal importer of arms. The Russian arms industry also plummeted in the ’90s. When Mr. Putin comes, Paul, he first comes in as Boris Yeltsin’s Prime Minister initially and then becomes the heir apparent, the next President. 

By the way, one of the first things Putin does is he gives immunity to Boris Yeltsin, immunity from prosecution. In the initial years of Mr. Putin’s presidency and then prime ministership with Dmitry Medvedev, in the initial period, he was completely wedded to integrating Russia into Europe and the United States system. Up to about the world financial crisis, so from 1991 to 2007, Moscow was perfectly willing to integrate with Europe. Indeed, in 1994, Russia became a partner of NATO, an official partner of NATO. In 2004, 10 years later, seven Eastern European countries, including two of them that border Russia (Latvia and Estonia), joined NATO. Sergeĭ [Viktorovich] Lavrov, at the time, didn’t oppose it. He, in fact, was in Brussels. They celebrated the entry of these countries into NATO. These are countries that border Russia. This is now, mark my words, 2004. Everything changed in 2007.

It’s in 2007, at the time of the world financial crisis, elites in Russia started to worry that integration into the West was not necessarily the best way forward. They began to look to China. They looked at other avenues. Two years later, BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa] was started. Russia became very eager in trying to integrate with Brazil, India, South Africa, and so on. This is after the world financial crisis. The first time Mr. Putin came on the record criticizing NATO’s eastward expansion was in 2007, at the time of the financial crisis. Before then, they are not complaining about NATO moving eastward. As I said, they wanted to be part of NATO. They joined NATO in 1994 as a partner of peace. They have a term of art in NATO, and that’s what Russia was a member of. After 2007, at the time, still, the United States didn’t see Russia as an adversary. They still believed that Mr. Putin would somehow be able to integrate with Europe. By the way, it didn’t hurt that all these billionaires were parking their money in Western banks. They were not called oligarchs as such, which is kind of a supposedly disparaging term. Jeff Bezos and others, we don’t call them oligarchs. We call them entrepreneurs.

Paul Jay

Actually, Bernie Sanders called them oligarchs.

Vijay Prashad

Okay, good on Bernie. So there it is. You see, actually, in my opinion, Paul, what happens is that you begin to see after 2011/2012/2013, you begin to see these moves taking place in Eurasia. Russia is beginning to integrate a little bit with China, initially through the BRICS block, but then also bilaterally, they start to open discussions about solving their border conflict, which was only solved a few years ago. Then in 2013, when Xi Jinping announced the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, which became the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, this began to pose problems. Seventeen Eastern European and Central European countries join the ‘Belt and Road’ project. Poland has been a member since 2015. That’s really interesting. Italy joined in 2019.

In my view, the struggle around Ukraine intensifies because Ukraine has become a frontline state in a battle between two perspectives. One is the natural progression of European integration into Eurasia. This integration is taking place number one because Russia has become a principal supplier of energy to Europe. Why is it a principal supplier of energy? Because the West cuts Europe’s accord to Iran. First, with the pressure on Iran, the sanctions on Iran, and secondly, after 2011, the West cuts the pipeline from Libya. Two principal sources of energy for Europe are offline. Russia takes up the slack. Russian oil and natural gas get pumped into Europe in a way to substitute for these two.

So Europe becomes integrated with Russian energy exports, and it gets very much integrated into China’s new ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. I mean, the very fact that Poland, which is a right-wing government, joined the ‘Belt and Road’ in 2015 now goes unremarked. People don’t discuss this. One approach was this natural integration of Europe into the ‘Belt and Road’. The United States contested this by firstly saying there were security concerns in Chinese companies like Huawei, ZTE and so on. Europe has to break ties and must ban them. The United States can’t compete with China on an equal commercial footing, so it’s relying on its force to put Chinese companies outside European markets and European integration. 

In many ways, I think the conflict around Ukraine is the frontline in this conflict about who gets to integrate into Europe. The U.S. wants Europe to reintegrate fundamentally across the North Atlantic. So the United States would prefer to send liquefied natural gas from the U.S. to Europe, but it’s much more expensive than pipe gas through Nordstream 2. Much more expensive. Also, the platforms are simply not there to receive U.S. liquefied natural gas.

In that sense, I think it’s not just a question of NATO, Paul. If it was just NATO, well, from 1991 to 2007, the Russians didn’t have a problem with NATO. This is not an issue about NATO. This is an issue about how the world must be shaped and the kind of logical dynamic of Europe’s future. Now, with the attempted breaking of the ties with Eurasia between Russia, China and Europe, Europe is going to plunge into a recession.

Already, Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor of Germany, was no friend of Russia and very close to the Americans. He told Biden directly in Brussels, “look, if you ask me to ban Russian gas, we will go into a recession in Germany, and that’s going to be catastrophic.” Europe has already seen food prices go up and fertilizer prices go up. Fertilizer prices mean the next generation of food prices will go up, and it’s seen energy costs go up. Europe is paying the price, in a way, for a contest between two forms of globalization. One is the old U.S.-driven one, the North Atlantic integration, and the other is a form of integration that’s been taking place through the ‘Belt and Road’ and through the export of Russian energy.

Well, that’s the contest in Ukraine. It’s true. The Ukrainian people are being used as a pawn in a struggle that is beyond them. This is not just about Donbas and Luhansk. This is not just about Euromaidan 2014. They are a pawn in a much bigger struggle, and that’s truly unfortunate.

Paul Jay

So if the big game here is the rivalry between U.S. and China, which is in geopolitics the big game, then why the hell is the U.S. strategy pushing Russia more into China, into the sphere of China? I mean, the way things are going now, Russia becomes like a satellite state of China.

Vijay Prashad

Well, Paul, you need to ask Barack Obama to come to your program. This is a question you should ask Barack Obama. Inside U.S. foreign policy circles, now for about maybe two generations, if not more, there has been a long debate about how to take the pressure of these enormous countries. Initially, the U.S.S.R., but even Russia, which is the bulk of the U.S.S.R., and China— these enormous countries, both in many ways, are lucky to have the endowments that they have: resources, populations, and so on.

Initially, there was a debate in the late 1960s. By the way, Henry Kissinger, who will outlive everybody, has been at the center of this debate since the 1960s. Kissinger, in the U.S. foreign policy circles, made the argument that the way to establish U.S. primacy was to befriend the Chinese, take advantage of the Sino-Soviet split of the 1950s, and befriend the Chinese and use them to weaken the Soviets. That’s the reason why [Richard] Nixon went to China in 1972, and that’s the reason why Kissinger pushed this strategy across all the domains of U.S. power (economic, military, and so on) to keep befriending the Chinese diplomatically and to weaken the Russians. This worked all the way through till the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Well, in the new period, when it looked like Russia was totally subordinate to the United States, Boris Yeltsin didn’t know how to say no to Mr. [Bill] Clinton. He was totally subordinate to the United States. Mr. Putin, until 2007-08, was very much subordinate to the Europeans and the United States. There was a new appetite that grew in Washington. A section emerged saying, no, we should befriend the Russians who are subordinate to us, to weaken and get rid of Communist China. Already the Soviet Union had been destroyed. Now let’s get rid and let’s find the [Mikhail] ‘Gorbachev’ in Beijing. So the argument developed, and that argument had a kind of arrogance to it. Well, now we’ve got the Russians in our pocket; let’s squeeze the Chinese.

Paul Jay

Just let me add one thing. Kissinger, after the Russians took Crimea, he argued, don’t make such a big deal out of this. It’s a weird historical anomaly. And don’t make a confrontation with Russia over Crimea. At that point, he’s arguing for, okay, let’s try to keep Russia more in the West camp and not push them into China.

Vijay Prashad

Except, of course, he writes a giant book called China in which he continues to make his argument that the United States can befriend China because China is so integral to the globalization strategy. Now, what Kissinger doesn’t talk about is that Russia is also integral. As I said, Russian scientists come to the West. As I said, the big Russian companies suppressed the prices of their raw materials, and they parked all their profits in the West. So they also contributed to globalization in an enormous way. Kissinger doesn’t indicate that in his big book China.

This debate about whether China or Russia should continue in foreign policy circles— well, interestingly, it’s during the presidency of Barack Obama that the United States accelerates against both. How did they do this? Well, firstly, the U.S., perhaps wittingly or unwittingly, put pressure on Russia to basically excise it from being able to control its only two warm-water ports. This is a key development against the Russians. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there have been only two warm-water ports that the Russians could control. One was in Sevastopol, which is in Crimea on the Black Sea, and the other is in Tartus in Latakia, Syria. If they lost access to both of these, Russia would not have a year-round Navy. In 2014, Russia seized Crimea and then had a referendum, and the people voted to join Russia. Okay, but we can come back to that because Crimea was landlocked. It was not connected by land to Russia. Some of this war is about that as well. It’s not been remarked on much, but that should be discussed.

The second thing is, in September 2015, Russia militarily intervened in Syria. Not only to protect the government of Bashar al-Assad but actually to protect its port in Tartus in Latakia. At the time, Russia felt that it actually faced an existential threat militarily. All of this is happening at the same time as the United States begins the process of pivoting to Asia. You might remember that Hillary Clinton went to India in 2011 and made a bunch of belligerent anti-Chinese speeches. So you are threatening the Russian military capacity, then you are making these noises about China, telling the Chinese you’ve got to revalue your currency, and so on.

Well, during the Obama period, Putin and Xi Jinping, especially after 2013, start to get closer together. Now they’re getting closer together, and the first thing that happens is they settle the border claim, which goes back now 70 years. I mean, it’s incredible. Right through this period, they still had a border dispute. Xi Jinping and Putin settle that, and they start to deepen their military, economic, and of course, to some extent, their diplomatic and political ties. Now, it’s true they don’t sign a military alliance which requires if one is involved, the other has to get involved. Both of them are careful not to get involved in this. I think that was prudent. That’s very important that this didn’t happen. That would lead us into a nightmare scenario. 

Set that aside, the point is the United States government, wittingly or unwittingly, brought the Russians and the Chinese closer together. They began to understand a simple axiom. For the last generation or so, the West has been trying to turn us against each other, to use one to smash the other and then smash the remaining one. Now that line is a meme in China. People are saying don’t abandon the Russians. If you abandon the Russians, they’ll first get rid of them, and then they’ll get rid of us. Actually, you want to tell people circulating the meme that this has already happened. Remember, the Soviet Union was destroyed. Now they have, for the last several periods, been looking for the ‘Gorbachev’ who speaks Chinese to get rid of the People’s Republic of China. So that’s been on the table for a long time.

I think this is it, whether witting or unwitting, and that’s why I say you should ask Mr. Barack Obama what his thoughts were on this issue. It’s under Obama that the process begins of putting pressure on all sides of Eurasia. Putting the heat up, and therefore bringing the two together. By the time [Donald] Trump, in 2018, said that the United States is going to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF, a very important treaty in the nuclear architecture of security. In 2002, the U.S. had already left the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and with the departure from the INF, both Russia and China began to articulate to the Americans that they feared a U.S. nuclear strike on their countries, and for that, they sought security guarantees. Now, when Putin says we seek security guarantees, it’s not from Ukraine. He doesn’t need a security guarantee from Ukraine. He wants a security guarantee from the West that short-range nuclear missiles will not be placed in Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine or anywhere that can reach Moscow within five or six minutes.

Paul Jay

Let me go back to something you said earlier, and then I’m going to pick up on what you were just saying. Talking about Ukraine as a frontline state and the rivalry with China, if I’m understanding it correctly, if the Russian invasion had been successful and actually installed a pro-Russian government over all of Ukraine, or if the actual objective or now the actual objective is a division of Ukraine and essentially independent Donbas, that’s essentially within the Russian sphere, then that part of Ukraine now becomes part of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, which strengthens China’s hand in the region. Is that what you mean by the frontline state in this rivalry?

Vijay Prashad

Firstly, Paul, I think the Chinese did not want any military conflict. I think the Chinese look at world history in thousand-year increments. They would have gone much slower. Build up your connections, ‘Belt and Road’ in Europe, go slowly, let trade lead.

Paul Jay

Which Russia was and could have done more with Donbas.

Vijay Prashad


Paul Jay

Because Donbas was more and more integrating into the Russian economy.

Vijay Prashad

Correct. In that sense, I don’t think anybody wanted a war. In that sense as well, Ukraine need not have been a frontline state for warfare. It could have been a frontline state for trade and so on. As I said, Poland joined the ‘Belt and Road’ in 2015. You don’t need to have a pro-Russian government or a pro-Chinese government. You need to have a rational government in power. Angela Merkel, for instance, was a rational Chancellor. She increased pressure to finish Nordstream 2, the pipeline that links Germany to Russia. Not because she was pro-Russia or pro-Mr. Putin or anything, but because Germany requires cheap energy to sustain itself, particularly as they decommissioned nuclear reactors. It’s part of their national commitment to get rid of nuclear and already getting rid of coal. Well, then it’s natural gas, and then you’re going to get it cheaper from Russia, then liquefied from the United States. It’s also very dangerous to liquefy natural gas and send it in tankers and so on. It’s basically a big bomb that you’re bringing across the Atlantic Ocean.

At any rate, a rational government is sufficient. You don’t need a subordinate government. I don’t mean it’s a frontline state for that reason. I don’t think China or Russia, frankly, made this into a frontline state. I don’t want to be misunderstood here as an apologist for anybody. I’m just talking factually. I don’t think they wanted to accelerate a military conflict in Ukraine, but I do feel, and I feel strongly about this, that in a way, I think the United States accelerated this conflict and didn’t care. If you watched Antony Blinken from his first meeting with Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister of China and Alaska, right till his recent comments made just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he seemed quite sanguine about this. The Russians are building up their military. They may or may not invade Ukraine, but we’ll take care of them in the long run. They didn’t seem to care, really. I mean, I was perplexed by the attitude. There was not much outrage about this. Even now, they recognize that, look, U.S. forces can’t enter Ukraine. The most dangerous development could be one of two, which is the Russians currently are bombing within 100 km of the Polish border. If they accidentally strike across the border, that’s a nightmare because Poland is a NATO state.

The other thing is we tend to forget is that Poland has a claim to Galicia, the Western part of Ukraine, to the city of Lviv, and so on. What if the Poles decide to cross the border and say we’re making a civilian refugee corridor and whatever, but then they sit there and don’t leave? Then that becomes part of NATO effectively. I mean, all these things are nightmare scenarios, Paul. So in some sense, I feel that the West— and that’s why people say, but it was the Russians that crossed the border. No doubt about that. The Russians did something illegal. They violated the UN [United Nations] charter by sending their troops across the border. I think actually, in this case, there was fire starter poured all over Ukraine. I’m not sure that the Russians poured the fire starter. It was the West that poured the fuel all over this country, and the Russians threw the first match on it and lit the fire. We have to also consider why they threw the fuel on the country.

Paul Jay

So we’re going to do that— wait a second. About NATO or the Russians? I think the only reason to spend a year or more, right from 2014, particularly, but especially in the last year, such a massive armament of Ukraine by the U.S.— and I’m not entirely sure it’s fair to say the West, because I don’t know that France and Germany were so on board until the invasion. It’s a scenario in which many people have suggested that, in fact, they armed Ukraine (they being the U.S.) to create a provocation. One of the reasons they kept saying Russia’s going to invade, Russia’s going to invade; it almost seems like Russia hadn’t decided yet, but got goaded into it, which seems kind of ridiculous because Putin seemed to have been a pretty good chess player up until then. But don’t start talking about Russia and Putin yet. Do you think there’s something to this? Part of the reason for such arming of Ukraine in the lead up was to try to provoke this reaction out of Russia?

Vijay Prashad

I think that that’s exactly what was happening. I think when you go back and listen to the tape of Victoria Nuland’s phone call from Euromaidan in 2014 where she says— this is her speaking, not me— she says, fuck the E.U., referring to the European Union. The United States was quite clear that they wanted to have a U.S. government in Kyiv in charge there. Why in 2014 were they that keen on a pro-U.S. government in Kyiv? I mean, that’s a pretty good question. If you want to place intermediate nuclear missiles, you could have placed them in the Baltic States. But these are small States. They can’t defend themselves. Ukraine is different, and I don’t think the Poles were willing to become the doormat for this. I think the United States was looking for a way to egg the Russians by 2014-15 into some kind of adventure.

Now why this is the case that’s a long story. I would also, again, repeat that we need to ask the United States government to account for itself here. Isn’t it interesting that they just don’t have to give an explanation for anything they do? I have not heard or seen, that is to say, read or listened to a speech by any high official of the United States government explaining U.S. policy around Ukraine. The most that was said about Ukraine in the last nine years was Trump’s accusation about Mr. Biden’s son and the money made in Ukraine. That’s the most conversation we heard in the media, but no high official has talked about what U.S. objectives were in Ukraine. There’s a lot of U.S. money pumped into that country. Not only for arms but for other things as well. But why should you and I speculate about these things, Paul? That’s irresponsible. I think high officials of the United States government need to explain what U.S. policy has been since 2014, or perhaps, a little earlier in Ukraine. Why were all these weapons sold, and why were there biological plants set up in Ukraine?

Again, these are not suppositions that we are making or fantasies about some labs that are there. This is out of the mouths of the officials. They have said these things, but they haven’t given us an explanation of why. They have said we are arming. They have said that through the National Endowment for Democracy, we funded Radio Free Crimea. You did all these things. Then once the Russians invaded, all that information was stripped off the National Endowment for Democracy website. Meanwhile, none of your high officials have been brought before Congress to explain anything. When the U.S. Congress, which has oversight on these matters, calls people in, it’s basically cheerleading. They call them in, and then they say, go get the Russians. There is no accountability. The world simply has not heard from the U.S. government. It’s been extracted.

Paul Jay

Alright, let me just sum up a point and then we’re going to start the next segment. We’re going to try to deconstruct the Russian motivations in all this. I do want to make sure and again make the point that I made in the introduction at the very beginning. The Russian invasion is illegal. They are committing war crimes. I think progressive public opinion should be firmly against it. It’s not a contradiction or anything to point out the U.S., essentially— Biden breaking his promise to stop the support for the Saudi attacks in Yemen (Invasion of Yemen). He’s completely backed off that. It’s still and will always be the time to also talk about the complete abandonment of the Afghan people who are in the midst of a terrible famine, starvation, and all of that has gone away. Most importantly, it will always be the moment to assess every geopolitical situation from the question, how does this affect the climate change question? If anything, I think if Putin has created a war crime here, and I think he has, and if the Americans induced him into it to some extent or a large extent, which I think they did, the biggest crime is the crime against humanity.

One is increasing the threat of nuclear war. I don’t think there will be a deliberate nuclear war out of all this, but an accidental nuclear war in the context of such tension is far, far higher. I saw a report, I think it was the Washington Post, that senior U.S. military officials, I think at the Joint Chiefs level, were trying to talk to their vis-a-vis in Russia just to make sure there are some channels of communication, so there isn’t some mistake that leads to the end of the world. Apparently, the Russians are refusing to answer their calls. I don’t know the truth of that, and this is part of the problem here. It’s very difficult to know the truth of any of the reporting that’s coming out. One thing is clear, international law matters. Nuclear war is very possible out of this. The climate crisis, which is for certain, is not even being talked about anymore.

In part two, we’re going to try to deconstruct if the Russians were induced into this, then why? It was kind of obvious, and if Russia’s objective was to increase their security, well, how’s that working out for you? NATO is now more united, probably in the history of NATO. Germany and France are actually raising some differences, and Germany was willing to go ahead with the Nordstream 2 pipeline when the United States was very much against it. Germany was going to do it anyway, but that’s all gone. If the objective was security, boy, that isn’t what Putin and Russia achieved.

So thank you, Vijay. We’re going to be back with part two, and thanks for joining us on

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Vijay Prashad is an Indian Marxist historian and commentator. He is an executive-director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books, and a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.” theme music

written by Slim Williams for Paul Jay’s documentary film “Never-Endum-Referendum“.  

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  1. I am Romanian and I completely disagree with your editor. I might be in minority here among might my conationals but I have a long list with arguments and facts that I think puts me on the right.

    1. US propaganda and influence among the fake controlled opposition European left is so huge it can not be over-stated.

  2. I think it makes sense for US to nudge Russia towards China, because, the US political economy and capitalist business practices are very different from both Russia and CHina who are very similar. It is clear to the US’ inner thinking, I think, that it can NOT compete with Chinese Goods, and Russia clearly has military missile making prowess. The ONLY way the US sees its future is to carve BOTH these countries outside their smaller world trade system. It’ll be an iron curtain UNLIKE anything we’ve ever seen. I think its incredibly short sighted of the US to move to that equilibrium, but they can’t help themselves given the fear and loathing. But no winning ever came from fear, nor loathing. It’s a losing strategy but the low hanging fruit for US imperial thinking.

  3. Romanian editor? Romanian editor that thinks criticism of NATO is off limits? Oh boy. Looks like my fears are being realized, this project is perhaps going the way of TRNN.

    As these events unfolded I’m more and more convinced that Blinken and crew, who talk cavalierly about the need to “give Putin a bloody nose” and openly trouncing Russia’s red lines with the expectation that the Russians “really won’t do anything about it” (US’s long legacy of mistaking strategic patience for weakness), were engaged in what was to be a massive provocation, real or fake, it seems to be what Russian intel concluded, and Putin front ran this with his military operation. Clearly the Russians were expecting the Ukrainian state to fold under the threat of the mighty of Russian army. However the Blinken crew called his bluff, knowing he’s not the butcher they publicly make him out to be. Quite a blunder it seems. The Russians weren’t expecting this made for TV opera to play out with the actor leading the way. Same for the US side. US intel seems to front run what our intelligence picks up that our little dogs on too loose of a leash were planning to do something, so they come with claims that Russia is planning something to front run the events before they unfold. The latest incarnation of this is the chemical and bio-weapons claims. Who has the incentive to do that, actually? Russia or these gladio era nazi goons running around draped in US arms and flush with US money?

  4. VP offers more insight and clarity in one sentence than those two so called experts recently interviewed here will provide on any topic over the course of their lives. Hate to go to far off topic but I assume you’re seeking to make internationalist connections which is a commendable effort but fraught with peril as US flavored money and influence is prolific. No shortage of fake in name only left being funded by the us directly or otherwise all over the world especially in places where the actual left is a real threat to power. Comparing Russia to the US is an order of magnitude more silly than people who try to claim that even today there is no difference between the two parties in the US. Laughably shallow so called analysis that belongs in the domain of thoughtless thought leader charlatans like Ian Brenner or Peter Zeihan, not on these pages. I’m just firing shots left and right I guess. That’s what Internet comments are for I thought. I was surprised that content was even published but I guess you don’t want to offend anyone now do ya. If I put it In the context of German politics those guys were SPD talking heads and VP is die linke all day.

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