March To Folly In Ukraine
By Eric Margolis
January 31, 2015 "ICH"
- The United States has just made an
exceptionally dangerous, even reckless
decision over Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev,
the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War,
it may lead to a nuclear confrontation with
Rule number one of
geopolitics: nuclear-armed powers must
never, ever fight.
Yet Washington just
announced that by spring, it will deploy
unspecified numbers of military “trainers”
to Ukraine to help build Kiev’s ramshackle
national guard. Also being sent are
significant numbers of US special heavy,
mine resistant armored vehicles that have
been widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US and Poland are currently covertly
supplying Ukraine with some weapons.
The US soldiers will just
be for training, and the number of GI’s will
be modest, claim US military sources. Of
course. Just like those small numbers of
American “advisors” and “trainers” in
Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000.
Just as there are now US special forces in
over 100 countries. We call it “mission
The war-craving neocons in
Washington and their allies in Congress and
the Pentagon have long wanted to pick a
fight with Russia and put it in its place
for daring to oppose US policies against
Iran, Syria and Palestine. What neocons
really care about is the Mideast.
Some neocon fantasies call
for breaking up the Russian Federation into
small, impotent parts. Many Russians believe
this is indeed Washington’s grand strategy,
mixing military pressure on one hand and
social media subversion on the other, aided
by Ukrainian oligarchs and rightists. A
massive propaganda campaign is underway,
vilifying Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin
as “the new Hitler.”
Back to eastern Ukraine.
You don’t have to be a second Napoleon to
see how a big war could erupt.
Ukrainian National Guard
forces, stiffened by American “volunteers”
and “private contractors,” and led by US
special forces, get in a heavy fire fight
with pro-Russian separatist forces.
Washington, whose military forces are active
in the Mideast, Central America, the
Philippines, Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
South Korea, has been blasting Moscow for
allegedly sending some 9,000 soldiers into
The Americans, who have
never been without total air superiority
since the 1950’s Korean War, call in US and
NATO air support. Pro-Russian units, backed
by Russian military forces just across the
border, will reply with heavy rocket fire
and salvos of anti-aircraft missiles. Both
sides will take heavy casualties and rush in
Does anyone think the
Russians, who lost close to 40 million
soldiers and civilians in World War II,
won’t fight to defend their Motherland?
fighting could quickly lead to commanders
calling for tactical nuclear strikes
delivered by aircraft and missiles. This was
a constant fear in nearly all NATO v Warsaw
Pact Cold War scenarios – and the very good
reason that both sides avoided direct
confrontation and confined themselves to
using proxy forces.
Tactical nuclear strikes
can lead to strategic strikes, then
intercontinental attacks. In a nuclear
confrontation, as in naval battles, he who
fires first has a huge advantage.
“We can’t allow Russia to
keep Crimea,” goes another favorite neocon
mantra. Why not? Hardly any Americans could
even find Crimea on a map.
Crimea belonged to Russia
for over 200 years. I’ve been all over the
great Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It
became part of Ukraine when Kiev declared
independence in 1991, but the vital base was
always occupied and guarded by Russia’s
military. Ukrainians were a minority in the
Crimea – whose original Tatar inhabitants
were mostly ethnically cleansed by Stalin.
Most of those Russian troops who supposedly
“invaded” Ukraine actually came from the
giant Sevastopol base, which was under joint
Russian and Ukrainian sovereignty.
Only fools and the
ignorant can have believed that tough Vlad
Putin would allow Ukraine’s new rightist
regime to join NATO and hand one of Russia’s
most vital bases and major exit south to the
Two of Crimea’s cities,
Sevastopol and Kerch, were honored as “Hero
Cities” of the Soviet Union for their
gallant defense in World War II. Over
170,000 Soviet soldiers died in 1942
defending Sevastopol in a brutal, 170-day
siege. Another 100,000 died retaking the
peninsula in 1944.
In total, well over 16
million Soviet soldiers died in the war,
destroying in the process 70% of the German
Wehrmacht and 80% of the Luftwaffe. By
contrast, US losses in that war, including
the Pacific, were 400,000.
One might as well ask
Texas to give up the Alamo or Houston as to
order Russia to get out of Crimea, a giant
graveyard for the Red Army and the German
In 2013, President Putin
proposed a sensible negotiated settlement to
the Ukraine dispute: autonomy for eastern
Ukraine and its right to speak Russians as
well as Ukrainian. If war or economic
collapse is to be avoided, this is the
solution. Eastern Ukraine was a key part of
the Soviet economy. Its rusty heavy industry
would be wiped out if Ukraine joined the EU
– just as was East Germany’s obsolete
industries when Germany reunified.
So now it appears that
Washington’s economic warfare over Ukraine
is going to turn military, even though the
US has no strategic or economic interests in
Ukraine. Getting involved in military
operations there when the US is still bogged
down in the Mideast and Afghanistan is daft.
Even more so, when President Barack Obama’s
“pivot toward Asia” is gathering momentum.
Didn’t two world war at
least teach the folly of waging wars on two
Eric S. Margolis is an
award-winning, internationally syndicated
columnist. His articles have appeared in the
New York Times, the International Herald
Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of
London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times,
Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun
Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis