Kiev tries to drag the NATO war machine into the civil war again

There have been several occasions on which the coup regime in Kiev has attempted to provoke the West into direct military action in eastern Ukraine. After the shooting down of MH17, this actually came very close, but ultimately it remained confined to sanctions against Russia (incidentally imposed one day before, on 16 July). Now the sanctions are up for renewal again, and Ukraine has launched a new offensive against the Donbass.
Kiev bet on the wrong candidate in the US elections (Hillary) but that does not mean it has no more allies in Washington.

At the end of last year, the warmongering US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham made a tour of countries neighbouring Russia: Georgia, the Baltic countries, and Ukraine. On the Donbass frontline the two spent time with Kiev troops, accompanied by president Poroshenko. Graham declared during the occasion,that 2017 will be 'the year of offense'. McCain (pictured) stated that 'we cannot allow Vladimir Putin to succeed here because if he succeeds here, he will succeed in other countries.' 

Now McCain and Graham are not relics from a past that is behind us simply because Donald Trump has spoken in favour of normalizing relations with Moscow. As Kennedy and Nixon found out, you should not get in the way of the American war machine.

McCain led the interrogations of Trump cabinet nominees in the Senate and got very reassuring statements from them. Both Tillerson (Secretary of State) and Mattis (Defence) spoke as if little had changed from the Obama days. The same for Nikki Haley, the incoming UN ambassador, who declared that Russia cannot be trusted. In her debut at the UN, she strongly condemned Russia for its supposed aggression in Ukraine, demanding it evacuate Crimea. These are statements not easily retracted once they have been made.

Initially the Trump administration seemed under no pressure to rush to the defence of regime in Kiev. The spokesman for the White House admitted Trump was being kept informed but otherwise declined to make further comments. The State Department in Washington likewise offered a muted response, not mentioning Russia at all when it urged all parties to stick to agreements to end the fighting—in sharp contrast to Obama-style accusations aimed at Moscow. But then Haley came in all guns blazing at the UN.

Poroshenko and his supporters in Washington and NATO know that they should nip any attempt by Trump to ease east-west tensions in the bud. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the US-funded Cold War stated, reported Monday 30 January that 'Frustrated by the stalemate in this 33-month war of attrition, concerned that Western support is waning, and sensing that U.S. President Donald Trump could cut Kyiv out of any peace negotiations as he tries to improve fraught relations with Moscow, Ukrainian forces anxious to show their newfound strength have gone on what many here are calling a ‘creeping offensive.’' According to the German Süddeutsche Zeitung, 'Poroshenko is determined to do almost everything to prevent the lifting of sanctions against Russia'.

Jonathan Marshall in Consortium News compares the situation with Georgia in 2008 when Saakashvili calculated that an artillery barrage on civilian targets in the capital of the rebellious province, South Ossetia, Tsvingali, would provoke a Russian riposte—and it did. He also estimated that the West would rush to the aid of his regime. At the time McCain was closely involved with Saakashvili. However, once Russian forces entered Georgia, among others to destroy airfields leased to Israel for an attack on Iran, the West confined itself to a propaganda storm about 'a Russian invasion', which remains the media memory of events.

This time the situation is more dangerous than in 2008. In the Georgia crisis there were no NATO troops at hand, but now there are. As I write, US and NATO troops, including Dutch units, are on manoeuvres in Poland. German troops are in Lithuania again for the first time since they were driven from it in 1944. And neither are the NATO troops confining themselves to the technical aspects of an exercise. They are firing their guns to 'send a message to Putin' , according to the combative NATO commander, General Ben Hodges.

Even so, the size and profile of the forces, in spite of much heavy armour, is not enough to confront Russia. But in a crisis they might turn south and become involved in Ukraine should Kiev succeed in provoking Moscow to respond to its attacks.

There they would make the difference.

Kees van der Pijl

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