HomeAnalysisThe roots of Ukraine war: How the crisis developed

The roots of Ukraine war: How the crisis developed

ON February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to engage in what he termed a “special military operation (SMO)” in Ukraine. This followed his address to the Russian nation the previous day, where he had officially recognised the two regions of Eastern Ukraine, Lugansk and Donetsk, as independent republics.

The two regions had been at war with their government in Kiev since 2014, after they declined to recognise the government installed following what they termed a coup, which had ousted the elected government of Viktor Yanukovych.

In his address on the night of the start of the SMO, President Putin stated the objectives of the operation as; denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine, ensuring Ukraine does not join Nato and remains neutral, as well as to defend the two Russian speaking regions of Eastern Ukraine, known as the Donbass, from the incessant onslaught of bombing by the Kiev government.

The US, European and other Western governments, Western mainstream media and their intelligence communities went into a frenzy, condemning President Putin and the Russian government for what they termed an invasion of a democratic sovereign country.

The US, EU, the UK and their Western partners immediately ramped up a package of economic sanctions against Russia, in an effort to economically cripple the Kremlin’s operation in Ukraine.

The irony of this farcical outrage from the West was that Nato, led by the US, is responsible for invading, destroying homes, hospitals, and infrastructure, killing presidents, and millions of innocent civilians, and removing legitimate governments in multiple countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, without the mandate of the United Nations and in violation of International Law.

Between March 24 and June 19, 1999, Nato invaded the Republic of Yugoslavia again without the mandate of the United Nations. The invasion was on the pretext that Yugoslavia was engaged in ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians.

They even bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists. When Nato attacked Yugoslavia, International Law was perceived as an annoying impediment. To justify their aggression, the West came up with exotic concepts – humanitarian intervention, war on terror, preventive strikes.

None of these had anything to do with International Law. Yet they took the high moral ground to accuse Russia of invading Ukraine, while Nato was the real cause of Russia’s preventive SMO in Ukraine.

While the West and its allies claim that the war was started by Russia February 24, there is a history behind this war. In actuality this conflict did not begin in February of this year. This war has been going on for the better part of eight years and, whether it is hard (right now) to read this or not, there are, without question, two sides to the story of what is going on in Ukraine right now.

What the Western governments and their media deliberately ignored was that the war had been going on in Ukraine since 2014, and Russia was only acting to stop it. Beyond this, there are events that have been brewing for decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, which have culminated in the current Russian SMO.

The current confrontation turns partly on what, if any, commitments the then US Secretary of State James A Baker made about Nato’s expansion in the waning days of the Cold War, and whether the United States fulfilled them.

Secretary Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about Nato expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German reunification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified US, Soviet, German, British and French documents posted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

The US secretary of state three times offered assurances that if Germany were allowed to unify in Nato, preserving the US presence in Europe, then Nato would not expand to the east.

The then Nato Secretary-General Manfred Woerner in July 1991, also assured the Russians that the Nato Council and he were against the expansion of Nato eastwards, as it would threaten the security structure of the Russian Federation.

Contrary to the promise of not expanding Nato an inch to the east, former Eastern bloc states, Poland, Hungary and the Cech Republic were allowed to join Nato in 1999, amid much debate within Nato itself and Russian opposition.

Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia followed and joined Nato at the Istanbul summit in 2004, followed by Albania and Croatia in 2009. The latest to have joined Nato are Montenegro and Northern Macedonia in 2020.

The Munich speech by Putin

On March 10, 2007 Putin addressed the annual Munich Security Conference, where he took aim at the notion that the international system was unipolar, and that Washington’s power was unchallengeable.

Putin emphatically rejected that model, and referred to the US-led military interventions, in the Balkans and in Iraq. In his speech he said, “Today we’re witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of military force . . . in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.

Of course, this is dangerous and results in the fact that no one feels safe.” Putin went on to say Nato had put its frontline forces on “our” borders (Russia’s borders). He stated that Nato’s expansion represented a serious provocation which reduced the level of mutual trust.

Putin’s speech was an important diplomatic warning to the United States and its allies that Russia’s patience with Nato’s encroachment on Russia’s borders was at an end.

Putin was warning his Western counterparts to change course and stop encroaching on Russia’s borders. In retrospect, this may have been the last opportunity for the US and Nato to avoid a cold war between the West and Russia.

The 2014 US-sponsored coup

In 2014, the US sponsored a coup against the elected government of Ukraine, through what was coined the “Maidan Protests”, US Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland, was at the forefront and admitted that the US had spent US$5 billion to help oust Ukraine’s President Yanukovych, who fled to Russia.

Following the coup, the US installed their handpicked Yatseniuk as interim president, who was to later be replaced by Petro Poroshenko following elections, and further by Volodymyr Zelensky, who is current president.

The eastern regions of Ukraine, dominated by Russian speaking Ukrainians, refused to recognise the US-installed government in Kiev, triggering a military assault on the Donbass.

Crimea, which was host to the Russian Navy, and part of Ukraine then held a referendum and declared that it was applying to join the Russian Federation, and Putin accepted the request and Crimea became part of Russia.

People in the south east in Mariupol and Odessa, protested against the coup government in Kiev, leading to the Ukraine Nationalists attacking and burning up to 40 protesters in the Trade Union Building in Odessa.

The rebel regions of Lugansk and Donetsk also requested to join Russia, but Putin declined to absorb them into Russia, preferring that they resolve their differences with Kiev and remain self-governing regions of Ukraine.

The Nazi Nationalists metamorphosised themselves into the Nazi-inclined Azov Regiment, which was to be incorporated into the Ukraine Defence Forces, headquartered in Mariupol. The Azov regiment became the paramilitary pillar of the Ukrainian Banderarists, and unleashed terror on the eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, killing more than 14 000 civilians in the past eight years.

This went unreported in the Western media as the US and Nato were sponsors of the Azov regiment and the Ukraine military.

Two agreements to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine were signed in Minsk which would stop the war between Ukraine and the eastern regions and ensure the neutral status of Ukraine.

However, under pressure from the US, the Ukrainian President Poroshenko, who had won the election on a ticket to bring peace to the Donbass, decided to abandon the two Minsk agreements which had been guaranteed by Russia, France and Germany.

He subsequently passed laws to ban the Russian language, which is predominantly spoken in eastern Ukraine.

In 2014, Nato started training the Ukrainian military and set up a base at the Azov regiment in Mariupol.

Nato began to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, in preparation to fight Russia.

In 2016, the US committed to arming Ukraine to fight and win a war against Russia.

Some of the Nato officers were recently captured by the Russian military together with the Azov soldiers in Mariupol.

US Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham visited Ukraine in 2016, and accompanied by then President Poroshenko visited and addressed the Banderarist Azov regiment in Mariupol, and assured them that the US would give them all necessary weapons to succeed in defeating Russia.

According to data obtained by Voltaire.net.org, the US Department of Defence organised a biological research programme in Ukraine, and huge amounts of nuclear fuel were secretly transferred to Ukraine.

According to the Russian Defence ministry, 30 biological laboratories were established in Ukraine, aimed at biological warfare against Russia and the people of Lugansk and Donetsk.

In its own admission, the Pentagon has operated 46 biological laboratories in Ukraine, which they say were for civilian purposes.

Undersecretary Victoria Nuland admitted this in a Senate hearing in Washington.

The irony is why the US Department of Defence would sponsor civilian bio labs which would ideally fall under the Department of Health.

Russia says it has gathered enough evidence of dangerous biological warfare material from the captured laboratories.

Russia also claims that it had credible intelligence that Nato and Ukraine were preparing for an imminent massive assault on the Donbass and Russia, and Moscow only pre-empted the assault. The Pentagon has of late admitted that they are fighting a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, with the aim of destroying or at least weakening Russia. These data change the interpretation of this war: it was not wanted and prepared for by Russia, but by Washington.

It is, therefore, not Russia’s war against Ukraine, but Washington’s war against Russia, using Zelensky and Ukraine as a proxy.

Chando is a lawyer, political analyst and commentator on International Law and Politics.

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