The Ukraine War: Its Tragic Reality and Geopolitical Background

Glen T. Martin

March 2023

In this article, my goal is to put the war and the present global situation within some larger historical perspective.  First and foremost, to understand the tragic war in Ukraine one needs to understand the history of the US global empire. The drive to empire began in serious with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 that stated to its European imperialist rivals that the US reserved the exclusive right of empire over its Latin American southern hemisphere. The brutal and bloody chronicle of this empire can be found in such scholarly books as Empire’s Workshop by historian Greg Grandin.<1> After the Second World War, the empire became global with all potential rivals at that time destroyed or bankrupt. 

A top-secret US government document written by George Kennan (later US Ambassador to Russia) in 1948 declared: “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population…. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity….We are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.”<2> This goal of global wealth disparity is achieved through control of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), both headquartered in Washington, DC, through economic sanctions on countries in the service of US interests, through political diplomacy and veiled threats, and through secret criminal actions conducted largely by the CIA, such as regime changes, assassinations, overthrows, proxy wars, etc. It is also achieved through direct war-making.

Geopolitical analyst Michael Parenti lists some of the US military interventions since World War II ended: “In the decades after World War II, many, if not most, massacres and wars have been overtly or covertly sponsored by the US national security state. This includes 2 million or so Vietnamese left dead or missing, along with 650,000 Cambodians, 100,000 Laotians, and 58,000 Americans. In recent years in much of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East there have been smaller wars, replete with atrocities of all sorts.”<3> This pattern of brute force without regard to human rights or dignity has been characteristic of the US empire since the late 1940s, and even before, since issuing the Monroe Doctrine. Today, the US has some 830 known military bases ringing the globe. What purpose do these bases serve?<4>

The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US, as often noted, allowed the US mass media (always loyal to the dominant ideology and careful not to mention the atrocities of the empire) to justify the torture, murder, and slaughter of official enemies as necessary in the defense of “freedom and democracy” around the world. The Cold War enemies were in Asia, identified primarily as the Soviet Union and Communist China. Historian Alfred W. McCoy’s 2017 book In the Shadows of the American Empire points out that the Pentagon has been long been fascinated by the geopolitical world view developed by Sir Halford MacKinder, director of the London School of Economics in 1904, who focused on Asia as the keystone for global domination.

Mackinder’s sweeping thesis was that Africa, Asia, and Europe were not three continents but one “world island,” and that all future geopolitical struggles would be over control of that world island.<5> McCoy and several other sources have pointed out the tremendous influence this view has had on the empire-planners who clandestinely operate deep in the bowels of the Pentagon.

In 1997, former Presidential National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote a guidebook on geopolitical imperatives for the US to maintain its global superpower position and block any potential challengers to its hegemony. The book was titled The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. McCoy continues regarding Brzezinski: “he would prove particularly adept at applying Sir Halford’s famous dictum: ‘Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: Who rules the World-Island commands the world’…. With a calculus that could not have been more coldblooded, he understood and rationalized the untold misery and unimaginable human suffering his strategy inflicted through ravaged landscapes, millions of refugees uprooted from ancestral villages, and countless Afghan dead and wounded.”<6>

In the “calculus” of the Pentagon, only power and economic calculations count, never human rights, dignity, or the suffering of countless human beings. Consider the carpet bombing of civilian villages in North Vietnam, a mechanized mass-murder of a civilian population if there ever was one, or the unfailing support for the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel, or the “shock and awe” that threw the people of Iraq into a chaos of terror and misery, or the straight 78 days of bombing of Yugoslavia (to “protect human rights”), or the systematic destruction of the stable and prosperous land of Libya in 2011, or the on-going destruction of Syria.  No place on Earth is safe if its destruction is considered useful to US “strategic interests.” Consider the revelations by investigative reporter Seymore Hersh that the US was behind the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines built to bring natural gas from Russia to Germany.<7>

These bombings at the German end of the pipelines mean an act of war against a supposed ally and fellow NATO member, violating both international law and any cannons of human decency, with terrible consequences pointing to the deindustrialization of Germany, the skyrocketing of prices, and great suffering for the German people and western Europeans in general. None of this matters in the light of perceived US geopolitical interests. The US successfully bated Russia into invading Ukraine with two major strategic geopolitical interests in mind: (1) sever the growing economic integration between Russia and Western Europe and (2) weaken and bankrupt Russia as a prelude to overthrowing Putin and breaking up the Russian Federation. It was successful in the first and has thus far failed in the second.

This explains the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines and the pouring of billions of dollars in weapons into the Ukrainian war effort. The immense suffering of the people of Ukraine counts for zero, mere pawns on the “Grand Chessboard.” For Ukraine is at the heart of Eastern Europe, and he “who rules East Europe commands the Heartland.” Both of these “strategic goals,” of course, are only secondary on the scale of the “grander chessboard” that is aiming at blocking China’s economic and political ascendency on the “World Island,” including its “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” for he “who rules the World-Island commands the World.”

Journalist Stavroula Pabst, writes: “CIA documents declassified in 2016 reveal proof of intelligence involvement in Ukraine dating back to at least 1953: ‘to provide for the exploitation and expansion of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian resistance for cold war and hot war purposes.’<8> Journalist Amit Bagaria describes other operations where CIA organized and participated in Ukrainian study groups and publications, then distributed materials en masse to Ukrainian civilians, libraries, newspapers and cultural institutions to encourage nationalism and strengthen anti-Soviet sentiment and resistance. The intelligence operations, which TeleSUR English reported, had been executed to destabilize and “nazify” Ukraine, continued into the 1970s.<9>

In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein traces in detail the systematic destruction of Russia after the collapse of the USSR beginning in 1990, with the complicity of its then President Boris Yeltsin: the destruction of its industrial infrastructure, the rape of its resources, and the stealing of its national gold and economic treasure, all orchestrated from Washington, DC, led by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is this destruction and humiliation of his country that inspired Valdimir Putin to give Boris Yeltsin an ultimatum and transfer power to himself in 1998.<10>

Putin immediately put a stop to the hemorrhage and began rebuilding Russian strength and autonomy. Many Russians see him as a hero for doing this and remain loyal to his government. For these reasons, the US government has long planned his removal from power. President Biden’s recent statement that the US intends “regime change” in Russia is simply repetition of US government plans going back to 1998 when Putin assumed power and acted to put a stop to the rape of his country.

Today, simultaneous with the Ukraine war, the many strange “accidents” and explosions within Russia appear to indicate a preplanning for this war going back decades. As Pabst writes in this same article: “Jack Murphy’s reporting on intelligence-backed sabotage networks in Russia elucidates the depth of pre-planning against Russia. According to Murphy, the intelligence-established sabotage framework in Russia was “years in the making” and inhibits the country’s supply lines.<11>

In his book How the West Brought War to Ukraine, Benjamin Abelow documents the history of provocations since 1990: NATO has expanded more than 1000 miles eastward. The US has withdrawn from two Antiballistic Missile treaties and placed nuclear-capable missile systems in Romania and Poland. NATO has conducted “countless” military exercises near Russia’s borders. The US has been implementing several military agreements with Ukraine even though it is not yet in NATO. The US has helped install a neo-Nazi leadership in Ukraine uncompromisingly hostile to Russia.<12>

The book Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III (2014), edited by Stephen Lendman, brings together writings of more than 20 scholars, economists, and geopolitical analysts on the crisis in Ukraine.  All of these thinkers see the crisis as part of a US-NATO geopolitical strategy for world domination that targets not only Ukraine (the largest country by landmass in Europe with a 1200-mile border with Russia) but ultimately Russia, and beyond that, China. Russia, China, Iran and other nations have been holding talks about how to move international trade away from the US petrodollar as the ultimate medium of exchange. As John McMurtry concludes: “The Ukraine crisis, perhaps linked to the Russia-China movement from the US oil-dollar, could be a new turning point.”<13>

Millions of people in Ukraine are now displaced and hundreds of thousands dead or wounded. Most of the dead and wounded (in addition to perhaps 45,000 Russian soldiers) are those conscripted into what some have called the “meat-grinder” of combat with the Russian military. As former US Marine Officer and UN Arms-Inspector Scott Ritter states, Russia is carefully avoiding civilian casualties in Ukraine as much as possible because it sees the Ukrainian people as culturally and geographically brothers and/or neighbors.<14>

But the meat-grinder continues unabated as billions of dollars in weapons and ammunition have been transported into that hapless country, a victim of US-NATO geopolitical imperial strategy. As economist Michael Hudson affirmed in 2014: “The idea is to drain [Russia’s] budget militarily by heating up the New Cold War along its borders, leaving less to invest in real economic growth. And if saber-rattling over the Ukraine can taunt Russia into over-reacting, this will revive fears of the Russian bear in the Baltics and other neighboring states, fanning their ethnic and anti-Russian tensions.”<15>

Written long before the Russian special miliary operation began in order to protect the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk from the murderous attacks orchestrated from the neo-Nazi government in Kiev, these words are indeed prophetic. Russia finally reacted, and soon found that a “special military operation” was not nearly enough. Scott Ritter notes that Angela Merkle admitted publicly in a recent interview with Der Spiegle that the signing of the Minsk Protocol with Russia in 2014, that satisfied some of Russia’s security concerns and held off on pushing for Ukraine to become part of NATO, was an act of bad faith, a subterfuge to allow Ukraine time to arm itself against a possible Russian invasion.

Indeed, Russia found itself in a full-scale war with a strongly armed military supported by NATO and US military aid. The predicted bankruptcy and thereby weakening of Russia has not occurred as planned, however. The majority of countries around the world have perhaps begun to understand the imperial intentions of the great hegemon and are resisting US pressure to condemn Russia. Countries like India, China, and Iran are doing an intense trade with Russia that has kept its economy strong, despite endless new efforts at economic sanctions.

The seriously tragic loser is the people of Ukraine, of course, but no one in Washington, DC, or Brussels for that matter, cares a hoot for their well-being. The second great loser will be the people of Europe, with a major loss of inexpensive Russian gas leading not only to skyrocketing prices but deindustrialization as more and more enterprises fail. The third loser will be the people of Africa and the poor of the world, as Ukrainian grain and outputs are largely denied to the world market and the poor of the world experience higher prices for food and other necessities. But there is a fourth major loser, not yet mentioned to my knowledge—that is the environment within which future generations will have to live.

Not only is all war, as well as the production of war materials, the most devastating of human activities for the environment, but the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines alone released a half million tons of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane gas is at least 30 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Global warming will accelerate through this act of sabotage alone. The Pentagon has a very long history of trashing the environment in the name of “national security,” as the hundreds of toxic waste dumps within the US testify: many highly radioactive, all deadly poisonous. What do future generations matter when this conflict, after at least 30 years of subversion and preparation in the Ukraine, finally has the potential for the US to take another step forward toward securing global domination? What do they matter when US weapons corporations are raking in billions in profits from this war?

Paul Wolfowitz was a president of the World Bank and US Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration.  He was one of the signers of the infamous “Project for the New American Century” document of 1998, also signed by many who became high officials in the Bush administration. This document predicted that the American people would never go along with a new century aiming at US world military domination unless there was an attack on American soil, “a new Pearl Harbor.”

As luck would have it, one year after Bush came into power in 2000, there was an attack on American soil and the project of global wars and global military expansion was approved by the American people and by Congress. Wolfowitz advocated invasion of Afghanistan and, soon after that, Iraq. The project went into full swing. As Secretary of Defense, Wolfowitz was an architect for US foreign and military strategy. Here is a key portion of his doctrine:

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.<16>

To update the Wolfowitz doctrine to its current version, the USA 2021 Congressional Research Service Report focused precisely on “The U.S. goal of preventing the emergence of regional hegemons in Eurasia.”<17>

As Paul Craig Roberts, former US Assistant Treasury Secretary under President Ronald Reagan concludes: “The Wolfowitz doctrine justifies Washington’s dominance of all regions. It is consistent with the neoconservative ideology of the US as the “indispensable” and “exceptional” country entitled to world hegemony. Russia and China are in the way of US world hegemony. Unless the Wolfowitz doctrine is abandoned, nuclear war is the likely outcome.”<18>

Notes

<1>Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States and The Rise of the New Imperialism. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007.

<2> Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, New York: Odinian Press, 1996, pp. 9-10.

<3> Michael Parenti, Profit Pathologies and Other Indecencies. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2015, pp. 26-27.

<4> See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004.

<5> Alfred W. McCoy, In the Shadows of the American Empire: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power. Chicago:   Haymarket Books, pp. 28-30.  Source for the World-Island map is McCoy, p. 30.

<6> Ibid., p. 213.

<7> Seymour Hersh article: https://seymourhersh.substack.com/p/how-america-took-out-the-nord-stream.

<8> Stavroula Pabst: article in the Internationalist 360 of 28 February 2023.

<9> Telesur: https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/US-Tried-to-Impose-Nazi-Leader-on-Ukraine-in-WWII-CIA-Leak–20160523-0003.html.

<10> Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Henry Hold & Co., 2007, Chaps. 11-13.

<11> Pabst, op. cit.

<12> Benjamin Abelow, How the West Brought War to Ukraine. Great Barrington, MA: Siland Press, 2022, pp. 8-9.

<13> John McMurtry in Stephen Lendman, ed., Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2014, p. 261.

<14> Scott Ritter and Mike Adams: “Ukraine, Russia, NATO, and Nord Stream,” Global Research, 5 March 23. 

<15> Michael Hudson in Lendman, op. cit., p. 32. 

<16> Quoted by Paul Craig Roberts in Lendman, p. 243.

<17> Quoted by Mike Whitney in “Showdown in Ukraine,” Global Research, 1 March 2023.

<18> Paul Craig Roberts in Lendman, op. cit., p. 243.