Ukraine: US/NATO pushes to arm Kyiv's bloody war in the east

February 3 interview on Democracy Now! with Professor Stephen Cohen of New York University and Princeton University.

More on the political situation in Ukraine.

By Roger Annis

February 6, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The Kyiv and NATO-driven civil war in Ukraine is taking new and dangerous turns. The United States is threatening to significantly increase its military support to Kyiv's army and the extreme-right militias allied with it, notably in the form of advanced heavy weapons, including artillery systems and anti-tank weaponry. The NATO countries as a whole are increasing their military presence in eastern Europe, including creating rapid-deployment infantry bases.

Increased sanctions against Russia are also on the agenda, although Russia's capacity to withstand sanctions as well as the harmful consequences of sanctions on European countries are cooling the enthusiasm for more sanctions and propelling parallel, military options.

The French president and German chancellor were in Kyiv February 5 and are in Moscow February 6 in an effort to pressure Russia to police more heavily the pro-autonomy political movement and self-defence forces in eastern Ukraine. Minimally, they want Russia to pressure the rebel movement to return to some variant of the ceasefire agreement reached last September in Minsk. That agreement, which Russia pressured rebel forces to accept, was highly unsatisfactory to the people of Ukraine, including the fact that the Kyiv government merely used it as a breathing space to recover from the catastrophic military setback it suffered in late August and to re-arm for a new offensive.

That new offensive was launched in mid–January by Kyiv. It quickly became a failure bordering on disaster. Self-defence forces have repelled it and taken back some of the territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions that were conquered by Kyiv last summer. Importantly, they were finally able to take full control of the Donetsk airport. But despite the setbacks to Kyiv, the regime's army and militias are still heavily armed. The successes of self-defence forces come at a high price, and civilian areas continue to suffer from artillery and mortar attacks, including, the world has learned, the continued use by Kyiv of cluster bombs (shells).

Time continues to run out on Kyiv's war effort due to its catastrophic economic situation. The hryvnia currency has gone into freefall in recent days and the ability of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial agencies to finance the government and therefore its war is more and more compromised by the failure of the war to produce a decisive result.

The other decisive factor coming into play are rising anti-war protests across Ukraine. Since the re-launch of Kyiv's offensive last month, mass expressions of anti-war opposition are taking place across the country. The New Cold War website publishes some very dramatic accounts. All of these developments are catalogued in the news and analysis postings to the website. The reader can obtain a pretty good overview of the situation in Ukraine and the international stakes in the conflict by reading the articles there, some written by editors of the website, others taken from other sources.

A key item posted to the website is the text of a February 3 interview on Democracy Now! with Professor Stephen Cohen of New York University and Princeton University. In the interview, Cohen speaks to the stakes in the war in Ukraine. He says that the US and the other NATO powers are playing nuclear roulette in their ongoing drive to weaken Russia and seek its dismemberment. Cohen is a liberal who twice voted for US President Barack Obama. He is not the only liberal in the US or internationally to understand the stakes in the Ukraine conflict far better, or in clear contradistinction, to significant sections of the international left, which are indifferent to the conflict or paralysed by doubts and hesitations from taking action to oppose it.

An important but still largely unknown factor in events is the stance that the new, Greek government will take towards future sanctions on Russia. Any sanctions by the EU require unanimous consent of its 28 member countries. Already, the Greek government has stated clearly it will not be a hand-raiser for whatever the large EU countries choose.

Hopefully, a firm refusal on Greece's part to join the "blame Russia" crowd, already rather clearly expressed, will help to clarify matters for waverers and doubters over the war in Ukraine -- those for whom nearly one year of aggression and war, driven by NATO countries, is not yet enough proof that the imperialist countries of Europe and North America are the driving forces of war.

[Roger Annis is an editor of the new website, The New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond.]