Russia, NATO, and the “Kosovoization” of Ukraine

On 24 February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine, marking a dramatic escalation in the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict that began in 2014. While the world denounces the Russian invasion of Ukraine — as it rightly should — efforts by the West to depict Ukraine as an innocent victim and Russia as evil reincarnate fail to tell the whole story of the conflict and are counterproductive to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

In 2014, Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled by far-right protestors with the support of U.S.-led Western imperialism. That it was far-right, ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazis which led the “revolution” in 2014 is indisputable. In a systematic analysis of more than 3,000 Maiden protestors, the most active agents were members of the far-right Svoboda Party. The leader of this far-right, ultra-nationalist Party once complained that Ukraine was run by a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” and includes admirers of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Ukraine has since been characterized by far-right violence, ultra-nationalism, and the loss of basic freedoms and civil liberties, including neo-Nazi pogroms against non-Ukrainians and Jews, violence against members of feminist and LGBT groups, state-sponsored glorification of WWII Nazi collaborators, book bans, and more. In 2016, Moscow Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Kiev, was renamed in honor of the Nazi collaborator and ultra-nationalist Stepan Bandera. During WWII, Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OAU) murdered 50,000 Jews and as many as 100,000 Poles. (His portrait is still displayed on the homepage of the League of Ukrainian Canadians.) In 2018, then-President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko was photographed with a Ukrainian soldier wearing a totenkopf, the skull-and-bones design associated with the Third Reich’s genocidal paramilitary the Schutzstaffel (SS).

Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine responded to the rise of neo-Nazism and ultra-nationalism by launching an armed struggle to separate from Ukraine and establish independent states — the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. While Russia exploited this weakness in Ukraine, it is erroneous to attribute the separatist conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Crimea to exclusively Russian machinations. Ukraine was already deeply divided ethnically and linguistically. In western Ukraine, people are more likely to speak Ukrainian and vote for pro-Europe candidates and policies. In eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, people are more likely to speak Russian and vote for pro-Russian candidates and policies. Far-right, ultra-nationalist regimes that spew anti-minority rhetoric often struggle with separatist conflicts, as minorities seek to protect their legitimate interests. We see this in Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Myanmar, Ethiopia, even within Russia, which itself has battled separatism in Chechnya and elsewhere. Primary responsibility for Kiev’s ongoing conflict with eastern Ukrainian separatists, which has already killed 14,000 people, lies with Kiev itself, not Russia, albeit Russia has further inflamed the conflict for its own political benefit.

Let me be clear: this is not a defense of Putin’s actions. I feel for the people of Ukraine as much as I do for the people of Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Haiti, Libya, Iraq, and other nations which have been the victims of international aggression. However, the depiction of Putin in Western corporate media as evil reincarnate without any historical or political context is dangerously misleading. This same one-sided propaganda contributed to the deaths of 1.3 million people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan by US-NATO imperialists. There is always a state or leader that is Public Enemy #1 in the Western corporate media: the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Vladimir Putin, China, Iran, Kim Jong-un, etc. There is no contradiction in opposing this or that state or leader while also criticizing how that state or leader is propagandized in the West. Indeed, such critical analysis is vital in an increasingly unipolar world. Western anti-Russian propaganda today is disturbingly similar to anti-Iraq propaganda in 2003; and just as you could be opposed to Saddam’s regime while also criticizing Western fearmongering over WMD, which we all know today was a lie, it is possible to criticize Western anti-Russia fearmongering and not be a “Putin Bot”.

“Why did Putin invade Ukraine?” is a question that has been asked by millions of people many millions of times this last week. I have heard all sorts of answers to this question, from Putin’s desire to re-create the USSR(!?) to Putin’s desire to “restore” Kiev as Russia’s capital(!?).

Perhaps a better question is why wouldn’t Putin invade Ukraine? Russia has every reason to feel threatened by US-NATO imperialism’s encroachment on Russia’s sphere of influence, including in Ukraine.

Russia has been invaded multiple times in the last two centuries from the West. The French under Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. Between 1918-21, 14 different states occupied the Soviet Union, including the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, Greece, France, Italy, Canada, and Finland. Nazi Germany invaded the USSR in 1941. It was through Ukraine that Nazi Germany attacked Stalingrad, leading to one of the largest, longest and bloodiest battles in modern warfare. An estimated 27 million people from the USSR died in WWII, an enormous loss of life incomparable to any other state.

Since the overthrow of the USSR and socialism in Russia, that aggressive and anachronistic military alliance called NATO has been steadily expanding towards Russia’s borders. This alarms Russia — as it should. NATO was never a “defensive” military alliance. There’s no evidence that US and Western European leaders truly believed the USSR posed a threat to Western Europe. John Foster Dulles, the rabidly anti-Communist US Secretary of State (1953-1959), himself is quoted as writing that Soviet communism “avoids anything that suggests a war of nation against nation…Some of the highest and most competent authorities in Europe have recently told me that they do not believe that the Communist Party would dare to order the Russian armies to march on Western Europe as an invading force unless Russia had been attacked, so that it was clear to the Russian people that the operation was necessary for self-defense…most well-qualified persons are inclined to feel their is no imminent danger of the Red Army’s being marched out of Russia against Western Europe or Asia in a war of aggression.”

NATO is an aggressive war machine. This is most clearly demonstrated in how at a time when the USSR and other socialist countries were reducing their armed strength the US and NATO were increasing theirs. Between 1955-57, the USSR reduced its armed forces by 2,140,000 troops, Poland by 141,500, Czechoslovakia by 44,000, the GDR by 30,000, Romania by 60,000, Bulgaria by 18,000, Hungary by 35,000, and Albania by 9,000. At the same time US and Western leaders were trying to turn NATO into a fourth atomic power. A permanent item on the agenda of the many conferences of US, Western European and NATO leaders was the establishment of the Multinational Nuclear Forces throughout the ’50s and ’60s.

If NATO was truly a defensive alliance, why would it need to increase its military strength against an enemy that was reducing its military strength and which its own spokesmen didn’t believe had any aggressive intentions? The fact is that NATO was created and continues to exist as a means for US-led imperialism to undermine the sovereignty and national independence of countries. NATO’s most recent military interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, and Afghanistan were imperialist in nature, not defensive, since none of these countries attacked a NATO member. However, it is not only the peoples of the Global South whose sovereignty and independence NATO is intended to undermine. Membership in NATO also serves to undermine the sovereignty and independence of NATO’s own members. This was outlined in American Plan 100-1, which outlined how US troops in undefined “emergencies” were expected to suppress any movement in NATO countries that would threaten US strategic interests. Western media itself has acknowledge how the US has exercised secret control over political developments in NATO allied states so as to detect in advance trends capable of weakening these countries’ dependence on the US. A NATO document code-named M-116 SIS-69-6 recommended action be taken against youth and student movements, to isolate students and young workers from politics in order to purge the more politically active.

NATO’s increasing encirclement of Russia recalls the infamous cordon sanitaire imposed on the USSR by the Western imperialist powers to “contain” Bolshevism. It was this desire to “contain” and eventually overthrow socialism in the USSR which led the Western imperialist powers in the 1930s to “appease” Hitler and encourage his militaristic expansion in Europe that ultimately resulted in WWII. Moreover, the same countries which comprise NATO are the same countries that have most frequently in the last two centuries invaded or been at war with Russia, such as the US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Turkey, etc.

To recap: Ukraine is controlled by a militantly anti-Russian regime that is at war with Russian-speaking Ukrainians, celebrates people who caused untold suffering and devastation to Russia, and which has sought to join an anti-Russian military alliance comprised of the same countries that have so frequently invaded and attacked Russia and to acquire nuclear weapons.

It is doubtful whether any other state would react differently to these conditions than what is happening between Ukraine and Russia right now. A NATO-allied, nuclear-aspiring Ukraine is a far greater threat to Russia than Hamas is to Israel. Whenever Hamas fires its almost harmless rockets at Israel and Israel retaliates with massive airstrikes on what is the world’s largest open-air prison, the corporate owned media in the West doesn’t speculate about Israel’s intentions, it justifies them. This is despite the fact that Israel does not have the right under international law to retaliate against Hamas. As an occupying power Israel does not have the right to defend itself under international law against the very same people living under its occupation. “[T]he right to initiate militarized force in response to an armed attack,” Noura Erakat, a professor of international law at Georgetown University explained, “is not a remedy available to the occupying state…[t]herefore the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealing with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population.” As an occupied territory, the people of Gaza have the right to struggle for independence “by all available means, including armed struggle,” as stated in UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3246 (XXIX) adopted November 29th, 1974 [emphasis added]. Four years later the UN again reaffirmed “the legitimacy of the struggle for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle…” [emphasis added][27]. Protocol I of the Geneva Convention further enshrines the right of people living under colonial domination and foreign occupation as well as racist regimes (Israel has frequently been compared to apartheid South Africa) to use armed force in exercise of their right to self-determination.

After 9/11, US-NATO imperialists invaded and occupied Afghanistan for more than 20 years ostensibly to search for and punish a single man, Osama bin Laden. This despite the fact that bin Laden was never actually charged with or even wanted for his role in 9/11. The FBI admitted in 2006 that it lacked “hard evidence” linking bin Laden to 9/11[1].

In the final analysis NATO was created for no other reason than to violate the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of other states. The US itself, a Washington Post article revealed, attempted to overthrow foreign governments at least 72 times after WWII. What is the source of US and NATO’s sudden concern for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its defense against Russia? It is not to be found in either the Ukraine or Russia, I argue, but in that military base masquerading as a nation: Kosovo.

NATO bombing of Serbia

When Kosovo declared itself independent from Serbia in 2008 US-led imperialism found itself in an impossible conundrum. The US and NATO had to recognize Kosovo’s independence. The dismemberment of socialist Yugoslavia had long been the policy of the US and its NATO allies. “That US leaders planned to dismember Yugoslavia is not a matter of speculation,” writes Michael Parenti, “but of public record.”[2] The Reagan Administration as early as 1984 adopted national security directives in which the state aims included the overthrow of communism while “reintegrating the countries of Eastern Europe into the orbit of the World market,” i.e., world capitalism.[3] After years of boycott, embargo, and horrific secessionist wars supported by the US and NATO, the latter declared in 1999 that “The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles.”[4] The US-NATO, in violation of the UN Charter’s prohibition against the use of force and without the authorization of the UN Security Council, then commenced round-the-clock aerial bombardments of Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro throughout March-June 1999. Interestingly for a so-called “humanitarian intervention,” the bombs left untouched private corporate interests. “The bombs,” Parenti writes, “fell only on state-owned or worker-controlled factories, enterprises, auto plants, construction firms, municipal power station and other public utilities, government radio and television stations, depots, ports, railroads, bridges, water supply systems, hotels, housing projects, hospitals, schools, and hundreds of other nonmilitary state-owned targets — in what amounted to privatization by bombing.”[5]

Thus, when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, the US and NATO had to recognize it because they were ultimately the ones that were responsible for Kosovo’s forcible detachment from Serbia in the first place. However, US-NATO recognition of Kosovo’s independence this led to something really terrifying for the US-NATO imperialists: an international precedent.

U.S. and Western scholars would prefer to hush-up these facts readily available to the public. Kosovo, they write, was a “unique” case. But is Kosovo really unique? What is unique about Kosovo? Serbian atrocities against Kosovar Albanians? That doesn’t make Kosovo unique. As Diana Johnstone cogently writes:

The “uniqueness” claimed by the United States is a propaganda construction. It is based on the supposed “uniqueness” of Milosevic’s repression of the armed secessionist movement, which was not unique at all. It was standard operating procedure throughout history and the world over, in such circumstances. Deplorable, no doubt, but not unique. It was minor indeed compared to the similar but endless and far bloodier anti-insurgency operations in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Chechnya, not to mention Northern Ireland, Thailand, the Philippines[.]

Indeed, it is the US-NATO’s modus operandi to ally with and support dictatorial and terroristic regimes: Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, Mobuto in Zaire, Rhee and his successors in South Korea, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam, etc. This is to say nothing of the numerous death squads armed and trained by the U.S. throughout Latin America. The US-NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was itself described by a former U.S. State Department official as “terror bombing.”[6] Moreover, no crime allegedly committed by Serbia can compare to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, which led to the deaths of more than one million Iraqis and destabilized the whole Middle East. Neither can Milosevic’s alleged or actual crimes compare to those committed by Israel’s apartheid leaders against the Palestinian people and Lebanon.

If there is anything unique about Kosovo, it is the accepted solution to the Kosovo crisis and the support this solution enjoys from prominent Western countries that is truly unique in the history of secessionist and counterinsurgency conflicts.

The Kosovo precedent — and it is a precedent whether one wants to admit it or not because even arguing Kosovo is not a precedent is a precedent by circumventing the UN Charter system while rhetorically attempting to uphold it — has haunted the US and its NATO allies since 2008. Russia’s actions in Ukraine are a manifestation of the conundrum US-NATO imperialism created for itself in Kosovo. The reason is simple: Putin, Russia’s strongman, has adopted the playbook of US-NATO imperialism for the benefit of Russian imperialism. What we are seeing now is the US and its NATO allies helplessly flailing around like a fish out of water trying to counter Russian imperialism while simultaneously defending their own Western imperialism.

Russia “invaded” Georgia and recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008. US-NATO propagandists like Socher and others argue that this was different from Kosovo, but was it really? The war began with a Georgian attack on South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali. According to Socher, this attack can’t be classified as “genocide” under the 1948 Genocide Convention, ergo Russia’s “humanitarian intervention” was a contravention of international law.[7] But neither is there any evidence that Serbian crimes in Kosovo satisfied the criteria of the Genocide Convention. As Parenti writes, “any number of Western sources including the EU, various UN commissions, Western security agencies, the German Foreign Ministry, UN generals, former State Department officials, Spanish and FBI forensic teams were unable to find evidence of genocide” committed by the Serbian government.[8] In 2001, a UN court ruled that Serbian troops did not commit genocide against Kosovar Albanians from 1998-99. If Serbian troops did not commit genocide in Kosovo, as the UN ruled, ipso facto the US-NATO bombing of Serbia was no more legitimate under international law than Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008. The failure of Socher to recognize this in his 2021 book can only be explained by the existence of ideological factors contrary to the supposedly ‘de-ideologized’ essence of his analysis.

Russia “annexed” Crimea in 2014. US-NATO propagandists have denounced this supposed “annexation” as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Anne Peters (quoted in Socher’s book) argues that “The basic rule of pacification and neutralisation is of paramount importance for the assessment of the 2014 referendum in Crimea. It was held in front of the guns and tanks of the Russian army and unidentified troops.”[10] This is all likely very true, but then Peters’ criticism of the referendum in Crimea be applied almost verbatim to Kosovo. Before Kosovo declared itself independent in 2008, which according to the International Court of Justice did not violate international law, the US and its NATO allies bombed the life out of Kosovo and Serbia using cluster bombs and depleted uranium, which one cannot accuse Russia of using in Crimea. Moreover, Kosovo hosts the largest and most expensive US foreign military base constructed in Europe since the Vietnam War, construction of which began immediately after the Kosovo War (i.e., before Kosovo declared itself independent). Kosovo’s separation from Serbia was achieved in front of the guns and tanks of the US and its NATO allies even more so than Crimea’s referendum to unite with Russia. Putin himself called out US-NATO hypocrisy on Crimea: “[T]he Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent — a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities.”

Although Kosovo is a prime example of the forcible detachment or annexation of a territory by the US and its NATO allies, it is by no means the only one. Peters’ criticism of the referendum in the Crimea in favour of incorporation into Russia can also almost verbatim describe Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua, as detailed in John Saltford’s The United Nations and the Indonesian Takeover of West Papua, 1962-1969: The Anatomy of Betrayal. In the 1960s, the US and its NATO allies, including the Netherlands, the former colonial power, supported or at least enabled Indonesia’s military occupation and the ethnic cleansing of West Papua prior to the so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’. Today the Papuan people continue to wage armed resistance against Indonesian occupation. Another example is the dispute between Britain and Mauritius over the Chagos Islands, not unlike that between Russia and Ukraine. In 1965, Britain annexed the Chagos Islands, including the island of Diego Garcia, from Mauritius, in violation of the territorial integrity and state sovereignty of Mauritius and in violation of that coveted principle of international law uti possidetis so that the US could build a land-based aircraft carrier in the strategic Indian Ocean. As recently as 2019 and 2021, respectively, both the International Court of Justice and the UN’s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea have ordered Britain to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. Thus, while condemning Russia’s violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, Britain is refusing to return to Mauritius territory which it forcibly annexed and cleansed the native population of in 1965. Yet to my knowledge the champions of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty have nothing to say about Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and even less to say about how Indonesia annexed West Papua in the 1960s using a rigged referendum on self-determination, supported by the US, and Britain’s ongoing refusal to return territory illegally annexed back to Mauritius.

Now Russia has invaded Ukraine and recognized the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic after nearly 7 years of brutal civil war. It is not humanitarian concern for Ukraine that is motivating all this anti-Russian hysteria. If humanitarianism was truly behind US-NATO outrage against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is only logical that similar outrage should be directed against other atrocities. But that is not the case. Indeed, US and NATO are responsible for most of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Saudi Arabia has been starving and carpet bombing Yemen for almost 7 years with US assistance, creating one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the world. Israel has been committing genocide against the Palestinian people for more than 50 years and has received billions of dollars in US aid.

The real threat to US-NATO imperialism is not the suffering of the Ukrainian people. What is truly alarming to the US and NATO is that Russia is doing exactly what the US and NATO did to Serbia — and they are helpless to stop it for the simple reason that they pioneered it. By recognizing the independence of Kosovo the US and its NATO allies inadvertently enabled Russia to adopt the US-NATO imperialist playbook. Russia is using US-NATO imperialism against the US and NATO and the latter are scrambling to try to counter it. Russia can’t be allowed to out imperialist the US and NATO.

[1] Page 27, “Hijacking America’s Mind On 9/11: Counterfeiting Evidence,” Elias Davidsson, 2013.

[2] Page 102, “The Face of Imperialism,” Michael Parenti, 2015.

[3] Page 102, “The Face of Imperialism,” Michael Parenti, 2015.

[4] Page 102-03, “The Face of Imperialism,” Michael Parenti, 2015.

[5] Page 103, “The Face of Imperialism,” Michael Parenti, 2015.

[6] Page 103, “The Face of Imperialism,” Michael Parenti, 2015.

[7] Page 130-131, “Russia and the Right to Self-Determination in the Post-Soviet Space”, Johannes Socher, 2021

[8] Page 104, “The Face of Imperialism,” Michael Parenti, 2015.

[10] Page 163, “Russia and the Right to Self-Determination in the Post-Soviet Space”, Johannes Socher, 2021

[12] Page 159, “Russia and the Right to Self-Determination in the Post-Soviet Space”, Johannes Socher, 2021

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